Invest in Others Awards
Time to get inspired by incredible advisers
Financial professionals give of hours, money and innovative ideas to help others
Five financial advisers and two firms won leadership awards at the 12th annual Invest in Others Awards last Thursday for their charitable initiatives and corporate philanthropy.
Presented by the Invest in Others Charitable Foundation, the awards program recognized advisers in five different categories. Winners this year received $40,000 for their respective charities, and finalists received awards of $10,000. The winner of the Lifetime Achievement Award received $50,000 for his charity. The award amounts doubled for all finalists this year because of the charity's record-setting fundraising over the year.
In addition, the foundation awarded for the first time $1,000 to each of the charities of the 60 honorable mentions.
“These donations will impact thousands of people in need,” said Megan McAuley, executive director and president of the Invest in Others Charitable Foundation. “Although this is a competitive industry, it's so heartwarming to see everyone come together for our organization and for the many great causes we support.”
A record 700 financial professionals and guests attended the Invest in Others gala, which was held in Boston.
Grief can be terribly difficult for adults to process, but it is even more so for children, who need extra help dealing with loss. Patrick Sullivan, managing director at Private Advisor Group in Morristown, N.J., has devoted 14 years to serving and developing Good Grief, a local nonprofit with a mission to provide that specialized help.
The organization's main service consists of free support groups (offered to children in different age ranges as well as for parents) that take place nine nights every two weeks, and are run by 264 trained volunteer facilitators. The average length of participation for families is two-and-a-half years, said Mr. Sullivan, who volunteers about 40 hours per month on board development, fundraising and recruiting participants and other volunteers.
Additional programs include InCommunity, which provides similar services to inner-city communities, and resiliency education programs for schools, which teaches children of all ages how to express themselves in the face of challenges such as death, divorce, bullying, etc.
Good Grief, with a full-time staff of 15 and a budget of $3 million, serves about 300 families per year at two locations, serving 80 towns.
“We are just getting the tip of the iceberg — we could see 10 times that amount easily,” Mr. Sullivan said.
Indeed, according to Good Grief, 90% of children will experience some form of grief before their 18th birthday.
“If we can get them into our support groups, it will be life-changing,” he said. “They know they're not alone. There's power in going and seeing all these people with a similar loss.”
Back in 1990, Steve Plain, owner of SEP Financial Services, in Goshen, N.Y., was coaching his 8-year-old's sports team and noticed that many of his son's teammates had no one to pick them up after practice. With both parents working in this largely blue collar region, the children were often going back to empty homes because there were no after-school programs available.
Mr. Plain decided to do something about it. Three years later, with the help of friends, schools, the town hall and the local Rotary Club, the Town of Walkill Boys & Girls Club became a reality.
The accomplishment took guts and persistence. For example, Mr. Plain had to inform the first candidates for executive director that, because there was no money, they would have to raise the money for all salaries and expenses. Fortunately, one person accepted the challenge.
Almost 30 years later, Mr. Plain is still on the board, and still fundraising. The program now serves 400 kids daily in nine locations spanning 40 miles of two mountainous rural counties.
The kids get homework assistance, do community projects, visit colleges, and gain social and vocational skills. For most kids, the program provides their only hot meal of the day.
“The Boys & Girls Club is about connections with other kids, counselors, mentors, role models and healthy lifestyles,” Mr. Plain said.
Twenty-six years ago, William Lervaag, partner with MasterPlan Financial Group in Peoria, Ill., co-founded Heart of Illinois Harvest, a local nonprofit that transports food within a 10-mile radius of this city of 178,000. Nearly 60 volunteers collect from 90 donor businesses and individuals, delivering about 7.2 tons of food to 72 food pantries and missions six days a week.
Over the past three years, Mr. Lervaag has secured $150,000 in grants for Heart of Illinois Harvest, which is self-supporting and receives no government funding.
Asked about any trends he's observed over the years, he said, “More people are hungry. It doesn't seem to stop.”
Seeing the faces of the people who are fed keeps him going, along with his desire to continue on in honor of two of his co-founders who have died. It also fills a spiritual need for him.
The work helps the volunteers, too, many of whom are in their 60s to 90s. It gives them something to live for, Mr. Lervaag said.
He also has witnessed the power of local mobilization.
“Local people need to be shown how to help,” he said. “Communities have to get involved with poverty. It's not going to happen from the outside.”
• Offers 40 hours of volunteer time off with 100% employee participation.
• Donates 20% of net profit to charities in its communities.
• Supports 15 to 20 charitable events per year, one of which raised $30,000 for local nonprofits.
• In 2017, employees completed a total of 960 volunteer hours.
• Offers 40 hours of volunteer time off each year.
• Employees have participated in the Cycle for Life for Cystic Fibrosis for more than 20 years.
• All 100% of employees participate in volunteer activities.
• Any employee contribution made to the Cassaday & Company Inc. Charitable Fund is matched 200% by president & CEO Stephan Cassaday.
• Adopted a one-mile stretch of highway that employees volunteer to clean each year.
• In 2017, employees completed 306 service projects to benefit 203 nonprofits.
• Has impacted more than 6 million people through grants and 39,103 hours of employee volunteering.
• Closes its corporate offices and all bank branches once a year for Xtraordinary Day, a company-wide volunteer day.
• Offers 60 hours of volunteer time off with 100% employee participation.
• Employees are encouraged to volunteer five hours per month during work hours for their favorite nonprofit.
• Every December, the firm's owner donates $1,000 to a charity of each employee's choice in their name.
• Matches donations of up to $10,000 per year to the United Way with 88% participation.
• One month each year is dedicated as “Raymond James Cares Month” to support 161 nonprofits.
• Following the 2017 hurricanes, firm helped associates and their families in affected states by offering financial assistance and opening its headquarters as a temporary shelter..
Harnessing the power of role models is the way to get kids excited about financial literacy, according to Sacha Millstone, financial adviser with the Millstone Evans Group of Raymond James in Boulder, Denver and Washington, D.C.
She is board president of Funding the Future, a nonprofit that promotes financial literacy to junior and senior high school kids. The organization brings concerts incorporating cool music and cool musicians to schools to tell stories about their lives and the financial mistakes they made along the way.
“We're not giving a class or lecture,” Ms. Millstone said. “We grab their attention with music that they love.”
After a 25-minute concert, the musicians tell their stories, hold a Q&A and stay after to answer even more questions. The approach helps the kids remember much more because they're so engaged and in awe of the performers, she said.
“Now they think it's cool, so they're really interested. The questions to the musicians — then to parents and teachers — don't stop,” Ms. Millstone said.
Word has spread rapidly among schools: The program has reached 125,000 students in 33 states and Canada in the past four years. As board president, Ms. Millstone has added new board members, developed processes and recruited two more bands to deliver the program.
Ms. Millstone is emphatic about the need that Funding the Future is filling.
“It's a tragedy that a person can get through their 20s without understanding that saving just a little bit can make a big difference in their lives,” she said.
Autism has touched Stephen Rudolph's life through both his and his wife's families. Having two nephews with the disorder, Mr. Rudolph, president of HW Financial Advisors in Cleveland, has felt the pain that ripples through an extended family when loved ones are suffering terribly.
As a way of sharing his concern and helping patients and families, he began serving on the board of directors for Milestones Autism Resources in 2011. Moved to do more, he also became chairman of the annual fund in 2014 and chairman of planned giving in 2017, bringing in more than $275,000 over the past three years through his fundraising efforts.
Milestones, which focuses on education and outreach, has four main components: an information and referral “help desk” staffed by professionals; an annual conference that draws autism experts nationally; an online resource center that connects people to resources such as service providers, support groups, camps, etc.; and community outreach activities such as professional development for agencies that help families access appropriate community resources.
What keeps Mr. Rudolph so involved?
“I just think how difficult and unfair life can be. I spend time with my nephews, but I want to do whatever else I can to help the autism community.”
Pat Henry, financial adviser with Hanson McClain Advisors, in Sacramento, Calif., knows that for both patient and family, healing emotionally from cancer continues for years after a successful treatment.
When his son, Nathan, was diagnosed with cancer about 12 years ago, at just 2½ years old, Mr. Henry and his family started attending Okizu pediatric cancer sleep-away camps in the hills of Northern California. Programs include a weekend family camp, one-week oncology camps and sibling camps that serve 3,000 patients and siblings per year. All services are free to participants.
Okizu is one of 132 camps across the U.S. and Canada affiliated with the Children's Oncology Camping Association, International. Mr. Henry joined the board of Okizu in 2015, and in the past three years he has helped raise about $200,000 for the camp.
Nathan, now 14, has been cancer-free for eight years and continues to attend camp every summer, as does the rest of the family.
One of the aspects that keeps them returning year after year is the sense of community.
“Things like parent support are vital parts of the healing process of cancer,” Mr. Henry said. “People understand what you're going through, and you know you're not alone. Eight years later, our goal is to help other people.”
“If you see a need, don't hesitate,” said Brenda Blisk, founder and CEO of Blisk Financial Group in McLean, Va., sharing a lesson learned from her philanthropic involvement with the American Red Cross.
After the market meltdown of 2008, Ms. Blisk felt it was an opportune time to bring people together — her employees, the firm's clients, the nonprofit community — with a special focus on working women who don't have time to do something fun just for themselves.
She acted quickly on her inspiration, researching local charities and fundraising ideas, and decided to work with the local chapter of the Red Cross, an organization whose mission resonated with her as a military spouse. One of the many services of the organization is its extensive “Service to the Armed Forces” program, which supports military personnel, veterans and families on 14 military installations in the region.
In 2010, Ms. Blisk met with the executive director of the chapter and presented a fundraising plan of her own design: a women's luncheon with a silent auction of celebrity-donated and other high-end purses. Known as “In the Bag,” it was meant to be a “strictly girly-girl event,” she said.
The plan was accepted and proved so popular that several Red Cross chapters across the U.S. are planning to adopt the model. Now entering its ninth year, the event has raised more than $1.2 million since it began.
The work has been very gratifying for Ms. Blisk.
“This is a great venue to educate the community on what the Red Cross does, and I've made a lot of new friends,” she said.
For Bryan Drowos, managing director of investments for Drowos Wealth Management Group of Wells Fargo Advisors in Boca Raton, Fla., involvement with the Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County is an integral part of his social, volunteer and professional life.
The federation, one of about 150 across North America, serves three primary functions for the local Jewish community: fundraising to assist more than 70 charities locally and thousands overseas, providing leadership development for nonprofit governance and fundraising, and developing current and future community volunteers.
It also supports agencies, such as Jewish Family Services, which serve the broader community, delivering social services, disaster relief, interfaith initiatives, etc.
Mr. Drowos began volunteering for the federation 12 years ago, attracted by the organization's social and charitable events. He has served on both local and national levels as a leader and a tireless fundraiser, helping raise about $3 million over the past three years through phone-a-thons, special events and individual solicitations.
He also has traveled to many countries to participate in humanitarian relief programs that the federation funds around the world.
“I've met people who wouldn't be alive if not for our work,” Mr. Drowos said.
What keeps him involved?
“I've been able to combine my passion for philanthropy, have transformative experiences and grow my business,” he said.
Four years ago, an unexpected meeting sparked a big idea for Tim Rice, president of Lakeside Wealth Management in Chesterton, Ind. At the time, he was vice-chairman of the Boys & Girls Club of Porter County, a prosperous rural suburb of Chicago.
By chance, he ran into the chairman of the Boys & Girls Club of Lake County, Porter's more urban and diverse next-door neighbor. Mr. Rice asked, “Why are we competing for the same donors in the region? Couldn't we serve the kids better if we merged?”
His colleague agreed, and the ball started rolling. Mr. Rice oversaw the clubs' two-year transitional co-management before they merged this year to become the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Northwest Indiana.
An instant success, the new club is now in the top 2% of all Boys & Girls Clubs nationally in terms of membership and revenue, and it serves 2,300 youth per day in 21 locations.
The merger has greatly affected the area, as kids from different counties are interacting through sports and other competitions for the first time, he said.
“It has created a collaborative environment in northwest Indiana and put other organizations on notice that this can be done and that we have to do a better job serving the next generation.”
Thousands of people in Guatemala's capital live on the perimeter of the city's 40-acre dump, scavenging through the filth for items to resell. Many of them live in tin shacks in squalid conditions. Jim Quigley, founder and CEO of Barrington Wealth Management in Chicago, has been a diligent volunteer and donor for years for Hope's In, a charity founded to build homes for the trash-pickers.
Since its founding in 2012, the organization has built 35 cinderblock houses, which provide families with plumbing, security and a healthier environment; paid for after-school programs and tuition for children; hosted health clinics; and laid the groundwork for future programs serving teen mothers and the special-needs community.
Hope's In also aims to nurture new generations of volunteers by running family-friendly service trips and supporting budding student philanthropy. Encouraging youth initiatives is a cornerstone of the charity. Mr. Quigley encouraged his twin daughters, Ashley and Courtney, who actually started the nonprofit when they were just juniors in high school.
Some 420 volunteers have participated in the last six years, half of whom are kids, traveling on one-week trips during which they perform nonskilled work to help the local builders. Hope's In also provides scholarships to enable any student volunteer to take part, regardless of economic status.
Back home, about 100 high school and middle school students support the effort through individual fundraising projects.
“It's an overwhelming feeling — a very positive experience,” Mr. Quigley said. “For most volunteers, it's their first encounter with the Third World, and it changes their perspective.”
With a combination of inspiration, strong faith and a global outlook, Bob Solis and his wife, Sallie, founded Open Arms Home for Children in South Africa 12 years ago.
Back in 2004, Mr. Solis, senior vice president with Morgan Stanley in Peoria, Ariz., had read a book about the AIDS crisis in Africa. Inspired, he decided to fly his family (including five high school and college-age kids) to South Africa to work in an orphanage for a week.
What they observed was distressing and life-changing: They saw firsthand the tidal wave of orphans and the obliteration of the young population succumbing to AIDS. The next year, the Solises took their life savings and bought a 70-acre farm in the heartland (a 10-hour drive from Johannesburg), which they turned into a home that now houses 60 children.
Fortunately, Mr. Solis had a previous career in nonprofit fundraising and has been able to raise more than $2.5 million over the past three years and develop a stable group of regular donors who sponsor children.
The work has altered his perspective.
“It's a huge problem, so I just look at it on a child-by-child basis,” Mr. Solis said. “It's changed the way I look at things. I never say I'm having a bad day anymore.”
We tend to think of orphans as having no family at all, but according to David Shnitzer, Ameriprise Financial complex director in Boston, as many as two-thirds of orphans could be placed with relatives if there were only the means.
Such has been his experience with CameroonONE, the nonprofit that he co-founded to bridge the financial gap to reunite orphans with family members in Cameroon in central Africa.
The country, wracked by civil war, poverty and AIDS, has an orphan crisis. To add to the tragedy, most of the orphans had extended families that wanted to take them in but could not afford to do so. All this hit home for Mr. Shnitzer when he visited a friend's father there who had taken in 25 orphans.
Mr. Shnitzer and his co-founders decided to raise money and apply it not to building more orphanages, but to emptying them out. CameroonONE provides holistic support to caregivers by providing supplies, vaccines, doctor visits, shelter, clothing, food and education for the entire household — for as little as $400 per year.
The charity is now expanding the concept, via its ONETrack International program, to Liberia, Zimbabwe, Gambia and Greece.
“Once the kids are reunited with family, it's tough to call them orphans anymore,” Mr. Shnitzer said.
Only 22 cents of every research dollar is spent specifically on women's health, said Carrie Coghill, president and CEO of Coghill Investment Strategies in Pittsburgh.
“We've been left out because it was deemed harder to get a consistent baseline due to hormonal influences on women,” she said. “But we now know you can't take research on men and apply it to women, as the results could be dangerous.”
Ms. Coghill uncovered these facts eight years ago, wanting to learn more and be helpful after a close friend died from ovarian cancer. Fortuitously, she learned that the Magee-Womens Research Institute & Foundation was in her own backyard.
The organization's 300 researchers and staff conduct research into 20 different areas, such as pregnancy, cancer and infectious diseases; translate knowledge into drugs and diagnostic tools; and collaborate on projects worldwide.
After five years on the board, Ms. Coghill became chairwoman in 2015 and focused on developing revenue streams. She's been very successful since then, helping raise more than $60 million toward a $100 million goal via grants and grateful former patients of the affiliated UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital.
Her other initiatives, debuting in 2018, include the annual Magee-Women's Research Summit, an international conference of research institutions focused on women's health, and The Magee Prize, a $1 million award to promote scientific discovery in the field.
“To continue these efforts, we need to raise awareness of how underfunded women's health research has been,” Ms. Coghill said. “By not being included in past research, we have lots of catching up to do in all areas.”
For the past 15 years, Mr. Wetmore, managing director with Merrill Lynch in Los Angeles, has been on the board of the Al Wooten Jr. Heritage Center. The nonprofit, an oasis of safety within a violent, drug-dealing neighborhood, provides after-school tutoring, summer programs focused on cultural and STEM topics, swimming lessons, hot meals, and more.
Mr. Wetmore was instrumental in pulling the center out of a funk after the death of its founder and the loss of donations resulting from the 2008 recession. After becoming board chairman in 2014, he moved the organization from survival to sustainability by refinancing the mortgage and recruiting board members to beef up financial reporting and governance, attracting donors to give again. He also has raised $750,000 for operating funds over the past three years.
The same skills needed to build a business apply to nonprofits, Mr. Wetmore said.
“All day long we talk about money, so it's not hard to turn the switch to request donations. Having those sales skills is something a lot of people don't have,” he said.
He feels energized by the fundraising calls.
“You're helping children you don't know. It's a noble purpose.”
Folding one established nonprofit under the umbrella of another one can be tricky, but Cullen Douglass, wealth management adviser with Northwestern Mutual, in Nashville, Tenn., was determined to make it happen.
In 2014, when the Nashville chapter of the Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) organization, an association that supports advocates of abused and neglected children, was experiencing a shake-up, the larger Family & Children's Service in Nashville stepped up to help.
As a board member of CASA, Mr. Douglass spent two years and hundreds of hours in meetings and negotiations to make an affiliation possible. He saw his role as the “point person and disrupter” to educate the CASA board and staff regarding the benefits of merging and to combat any fears.
After the merger in 2016, Mr. Douglass continued his outsized influence by joining the board of FCS and serving as a major-gift solicitor for its capital campaign, drumming up about $850,000 in two years. This included a five-year, $250,000 sustaining endowment for a specialized counseling position. He attributes his fundraising success to “educating people and matching their passions and their money.”
He shared some lessons learned from his successful board experience.
“Don't make decisions alone, but get input from staff and professionals. Get the ego out of the way and serve others. And follow your gut to do what's right.”