• Lesley Banis

    Lesley Banis

    Director of Programs, Community Foundation of North Central Florida

    Lesley Banis has been working in nonprofits for over 10 years. She started her career with the Sebastian Ferrero Foundation and has served on many community boards including the Junior League of Gainesville, Leadership Gainesville Alumni Association and the Alachua County Perinatal Mental Health Coalition. Banis is the current Director of Programs at the Community Foundation of North Central Florida and holds a certified fundraising executive (CFRE) certificate.

    “Try to find ways to be successful in all areas of your life,” said Banis. “Success comes in many forms and looks different to everyone. Define what success means to you and view yourself as successful, it will help build confidence in your personal and professional life.”

    What does it mean to be Fierce?

    A fierce woman is one who builds other women up instead of tearing them down and understands the importance of being surrounded by a good tribe.


    What does success, achievement and accomplishment mean to you?

    Success means setting goals and working diligently to achieve them, but most importantly success is knowing that goals are a moving target and change is inevitable.

    What motivates you in the morning?

    What motivates me every morning has vastly changed with the seasons of my life, and I am sure will continue to change. Presently, my motivation is my family and daughters. Every day I wake up knowing that I am being watched by a toddler and teenager who notice how I handle the day and are looking at my actions and reactions. It is important to show grace and respect as I am helping shape the lives of these beautiful girls.

    What or who is inspiring you right now? Why?

    Currently, my inspiration is the generosity of our local community. The Community Foundation just wrapped up our third annual giving day, The Amazing Give. More than $1 million was raised in 24 hours by 88 non-profits. It was exciting to see the non-profits be creative and really push their donor base to give. On the flip side, it was inspiring to watch more than 5,000 people support local non-profits and help them raise much needed funds. I am proud to live in such a generous community.

    What was the best decision you’ve made? What’s the worst?

    I was with Sebastian Ferrero Foundation since its beginning more than 10 years ago. Seeing the project through to the end was important to me. The Sebastian Ferrero Foundation had a lofty goal of advocating for a children’s hospital in North Central Florida for those seeking care at the University of Florida and UF Health. My aspiration was to see this project to the end. There were many ups and downs and twist and turns throughout the last 10 years, and while I had many opportunities to walk away, I made the decision early on to see the project through. There were many people and powers who helped see this project to the end, I am proud to have been able to play a role in seeing a state-of-the-art, full service pediatric hospital in our community. Many people work their whole lives just to be part of a journey for a business or non-profit. I was fortunate to see a project from start to finish at the beginning of my career – best decision I have made!

    What has been your biggest obstacle and how have you overcome it?

    Growing up with a speech disability, I had to learn to adjust quickly to situations in order to have my voice heard and understood. I studied communications and public relations in college to gain the necessary skills of relaying a message clearly and directly in order to thrive in the work force and in social situations and learning environments. I have to remind myself daily to speak slowly and be mindful of how I communicate.

    How do you address negativity in your life and in business?

    As simple as it may sound, I try and address every situation in my life with a smile. It isn’t always easy, and it definitely is not what I want to do on many occasions, but it is effective. At the start of my career I had a boss who told me that a smile represents hope and positivity no matter the circumstances. I have kept that in mind and try my hardest to handle every problem and obstacle with a smile and positive attitude

    Is there a particular instance or occurrence that you credit for building your confidence and self-esteem?

    It’s easy to lose confidence if you believe you haven’t achieved anything. About 10 years ago, I started writing down yearly goals every January and sealing them in an envelope. It is amazing to look back and reflect. Many times, I have far exceeded what I wrote down 12 months earlier. It allows me to start the new year feeling accomplished and ready to attack my new goals.

    How do you empower other women?

    I try to stress to those around me that life is not a competition. Women have so many things to juggle that we simply don’t need to turn on each other. It is about supporting each other and helping others when they are in need. I demand better from the women around me by remembering the simplicity of this statement: “Girls compete with each other, but women empower one another.”

    What change do you want to see in your industry?

    In my 10 plus years working in the non-profit sector, I have seen many changes and evolutions. We are fortunate to live in a community with such a vibrant non-profit presence. Our community truly has a culture of giving and supporting organizations pushing for change.

    Do you have any advice for young women as they try to achieve their goals?

    Try to find ways to be successful in all areas of your life. Success comes in many forms and looks different to everyone. Define what success means to you and view yourself as successful, it will help build confidence in your personal and professional life.

    What do you want to be remembered for?

    Between my family, friends, work and community involvement, I definitely feel spread thin from time to time. Even with all that life throws at me, it is extremely important for me to stay involved and active in our community. I want to be remembered as someone who contributed to my community and played a small role in making this community continue to be a thriving place to live, work and enjoy.

    How do you defy the current stereotypes, stigmas and double standards that women have today?

    I have been fortunate to have been surrounded by strong women my whole life and my professional career has been no different. These women have taught me to be myself and not compare myself to others, women or men.