Building Community Around a Common Cause

Jonna Keller (back left) and Alexandra Armstrong (back right) pictured with children from the Boys & Girls Clubs of Sarasota County.

Jonna Keller (back left) and Alexandra Armstrong (back right) pictured with children from the Boys & Girls Clubs of Sarasota County

Being a woman in the financial services industry can be lonely. According to a Cerulli report, only 16% of financial advisors are women. Without the same robust network in place as their male counterparts, women like Sarasota-based retired financial advisor Alexandra Armstrong—the 2014 Invest in Others Lifetime Achievement award winner—tend to take notice when they cross paths with other women in their industry.

Two years ago, Alexandra was in the middle of a move from Washington, D.C. to Florida. Though she was relocating down south as part of a gradual retirement, she wanted to establish social connections in her new home, and she figured the best way to do that would be to get involved with a like-minded charity, which has always been important to her.

As luck would have it, Alexandra picked up a copy of InvestmentNews and began reading about the Invest in Others award finalists, which included a write-up on Jonna D. Keller, a Florida-based financial advisor nominated for her work with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Sarasota County. Alexandra quickly picked up the phone to find out more.  

“She was a woman in the business with her own firm and she was philanthropically minded,” Alexandra said. “If it were a man that won the award, I’m not so sure I would have reached out. We had a lot in common. I took her to lunch, visited the Boys & Girls Clubs, and now I’m on the foundation board and was recently elected treasurer.”

But the happy ending almost didn’t happen. When Jonna got the message, she thought it was a solicitation…until she decided to do a quick online search and quickly realized Alexandra was “for real.”

“I knew we needed to get this lady before someone else did,” Jonna said. “Alex has been tremendous with the Boys & Girls Clubs. Not only the foundation board, but the staff and CEO incorporate a lot of what she has to say into the process. She really brings her Washington, D.C. experience into the nonprofit world.”

Alexandra won her Lifetime Achievement award for her work for the Foundation for Financial Planning. A long-time trailblazer in both business (as the first person to earn the Certified Financial Planner™ designation in Washington, D.C.) and philanthropy, Alexandra was the first and only female president of the Boy Scouts of America, National Capital Area Council, and has always had a passion for helping underprivileged children.

“I have no children of my own and so I’ve always chosen to work with programs that involve children,” she said. “Before I was born, my family had a lot of money, but they lost it in the 1929 crash. I feel fortunate to be where I am today and to be able to give back my time and money.”

Over the past two years, the two women have established a close working relationship and friendship. During their frequent lunch dates, Jonna will ask Alexandra for her advice on both business and charity.

When it comes to giving back, the two women agree on a lot, namely that those who give back should have a purpose and true passion for the cause. Both women also believe that hard-fought fundraising dollars should go to those who need it most.

 “You have to believe in what you’re doing,” Alexandra said. “That’s why Invest in Others is so great. They support so many different charities. After reading about all the stories, I want to give to all of them.”