About Us

About Floridians for Democracy Institute

To accomplish our Mission we are organized as two nonprofits:

  • Floridians for Democracy Institute (FFDI) is a 501c3 organization with charitable and educational purposes which provides education and awareness of the risks to freedoms in Florida.
  • Floridians for Democracy (FFD) is a 501c4 organization, which promotes social welfare, education and awareness of the risks to freedoms in Florida.

The organizations are driven by despondence over the most destructive legislative sessions in memory as well as hope and determination to protect democracy.

Our Mission

We coordinate a Florida network of social justice advocates dedicated to saving and preserving democracy.

Our Vision

We envision a state of Florida where all residents have equal opportunity, regardless of race, gender, religion, or sexual orientation as granted by democratic freedoms dictated in the constitution.

Key Strategies

We connect individuals and organizations to amplify the achievement of shared goals to win the fight to preserve democracy. With greater collaboration, we speak with a louder voice to confront the erosion of democratic freedoms.

Florida flag and United States flag

Our Guiding Principles

  • We prioritize outcomes that increase voter participation across all demographics
  • We engage with civility and inherent dignity for all
  • We uphold a bipartisan approach in the pursuit of protecting and preserving democracy
  • We use non-violent and legal means to achieve our goals
  • We strengthen, amplify and accelerate but not compete with partners

Our Board

Dr. Michael Martin, Chairman

- President Emeritus, FGCU
- 50+ years in Public Higher Education

Jim Nathan, President

- Retired president, Lee Health
- Adjunct professor, Florida Gulf Coast University
- Co-Founder, SWFL Voices for Racial Justice

Wayne Smith, Treasurer

- President, Smith Family Foundation

Jan Martin, Secretary

- Retired Educator
- Lifelong Volunteer
- Politically Active

Grace Brannigan

- Juris Doctor Candidate, University of Connecticut
- Immediate Past President, Student Body, Florida Gulf Coast University
- Double Major in History and Political Science

Jeff Cull

- Retired Naval Officer
- Retired newspaper executive
- Owner Artisinal Woodworking

Bob Schaeffer

- President, FairDistricts Now; Treasurer, Progress Florida Education Institute, Founder, Florida Civic Engagement Table (State Voices affiliate)
- Co-author Winning Local and State Elections (Simon & Shuster) and "Giving the Media Your Message"
- National strategic planning and campaign management consultant; led more than 300 workshops on media communications, grassroots organizing, and electoral action in 43 U.S. states, Canada and Russia.

Bill Petrarca

- Board President, UU Congregation of Ft. Myers 
- Board member, UU Justice of FL network 
- retired mgt. consultant, Strathman Associates

Organization Formation

FEBRUARY 2023

Small group forms

A small group assembled to discuss autocratic actions in Tallahassee and decided they needed a “1939-like” project. To get started, they initiated plans for a large in-person event.

FEBRUARY 2023

APRIL 2023

Organizations Established

During a virtual meeting with more than 85 participants from Naples to Sarasota, the group decides to expand to state-wide participation. The mission is to create a network of organizations to protect democracy and 501c3 (Floridians for Democracy Institute) and 501c4 (Floridians for Democracy Inc.) organizations are established.

APRIL 2023

MAY 2023

Growing Statewide

Two virtual meetings are held with 150+ participants each time. Guest speakers were Nikki Fried & Bobby Block. Media coverage by WGCU-FM. The group grew to 450 registered supporters.

MAY 2023

JUNE 2023

Taking Action

The group grew to more 500 registered supporters and regular meetings were established as well as a newsletter. Meetings were held with a county sheriff, a state representative, and David Pepper, author of Saving Democracy. The website development and Strategic Action Plan initiated.

JUNE 2023

July 2023

Next Plans Unfold

Strategic Plan and website "go live!" Next steps: Volunteer roles and network partners identified; funding the effort pursued.

July 2023

August 2023

Zoom Event

FFD hosts Zoom featuring speakers Karen Svoboda (Defense of Democracy), Andrew Warren (former Hillsborough Co. State Attorney), Tommy Doyle (Lee County Supervisor of Elections) with 75 participants.

August 2023

September 2023

Education Under Siege! How Should We Respond?

“Education Under Siege! How Should We Respond?” Zoom session hosted by FFD featured Dr. Pat Okker, Immediate past President of New College; and Gwyn Gittens, past Chair Lee County School Board; representatives of the Purple Group; and Maz Tuchman, an impressive candidate for Miami-Dade School Board. 114 people participated. 

September 2023

October 2023

Messaging Hope and Optimism

58 participants watched speaker Simon Rosenberg in “Messaging Hope and Optimism” via zoom. FFD hosted a Pro-Democracy Summit with David Jolly with 97 participants on Zoom. 

October 2023

November 2023

Voices For Democracy

Speakers Florida State Reps Rita Harris and Anna Eskamani talk to 40 participants on Zoom about “There Has Been a Freight Train of Bad Bills in Tallahassee.”

FFD also partnered with Florida Veterans for Common Sense and Choose Democracy Now for a Veterans Day Expo in Sarasota. More than 300 attended. The event was livestreamed. Professor Ruth Ben-Ghait, author of Strongmen discussed “Fascism at Our Doorstep.”

Dave Aronberg talked about the challenges and opportunities of democracy in Florida and beyond with 85 participants. Six individuals are recognized as “Voices for Democracy” Dr. Robert Hilliard, Dr. Maddie Stewart & Bobbie D’Alessandro (Purple Group), Phyllis Andrews & Michael Sales (Collier Freedom), and Jan Sommer.

Speakers Leslie Poole from Rollins College and Jaclyn Lopez from Stetson (professors and historian) spoke about the importance of our environment. They began by paying homage to Dick Jacobs with a video and some of his slides. Mr. Jacobs was a dedicated environmentalist, photographer and author of Democracy of Dollars who recently passed away. 

November 2023

January 2024

Event Series Launch

FFD launches Democracy at Risk event series. “Assaults on Our Freedoms” featuring speaker Karen Svoboda, The Purple Group and Bob Schaeffer. 

January 2024