Every year, as we approach award season, we are blown away by the generosity of our finalists—financial advisors who give their precious time to support so many important causes, from funding cancer research, to teaching financial literacy, providing educational opportunities for at-risk youth and offering greater resources to children and families affected by autism.
This year is no exception. We hope you’ll take a moment to meet the men and women in our five award categories working to actively make a difference in their communities and create a better world.
With the Catalyst Award, we honor the men and women who aspire to create change. In the words of Gandhi: “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” The finalists in this category have demonstrated great leadership over the past three years, whether by launching a major fundraising campaign, initiating a new partnership or conducting an organizational turnaround.
When she lost a friend to ovarian cancer, Carrie Coghill got to work tackling the issue in the hopes of sparing others the same fate. She became involved with The Magee-Womens Research Institute and Foundation, the largest independent U.S. research institute focused on women’s health. In the past few years, Carrie helped lead a $100 million Fundraising Campaign for Research, which has raised more than $60 million to date. Through her work, Carrie is helping to create parity in the world of women’s health—which receives just 22 cents of every research dollar.
Where others see problems, Cullen Douglass sees solutions. As a supporter of Family and Children’s Services (FCS), Cullen recognized that the mission of the organization—providing vital services to at-risk children and families in the Nashville area—overlapped with the work of another nonprofit, Court Appointed Special Advocates for Children (CASA). Working hundreds of hours over a two-year period, Cullen finalized an affiliation agreement that allowed CASA to maintain much of its autonomy and governance while sharing space with FCS, accessing FCS’ management and clinical team, and benefitting from some board oversight. The arrangement allows both organizations to continue to serve the needs of the community.
In times of crisis, some people run for the hills. Paul Wetmore digs in even more. When Paul became chairman of the board at the Al Wooten Jr. Heritage Center in 2008, the organization was in dire straits. Board members were leaving, bills piled up and the center—which provides SAT prep, enrichment and grants to low-income students in the Los Angeles area—was in jeopardy of closing. Paul brought on new leadership to improve financial reporting, updated bylaws, secured new grant funding and recruited educators from UCLS, USC and Pepperdine. In just nine years, Paul executed a complete turnaround of the organization. In fact, FY 2017 even ended with a $250,000 surplus.
Community Service Award
Smart managers and leaders are indispensable to any organization, whether for-profit or nonprofit. Our Community Service Award recognizes a financial advisor who has made a difference in the community over the past three years by serving with distinction as a fundraiser, board member or in an executive role.
When she founded “In the Bag,” a volunteer-run designer handbag auction that benefits the American Red Cross National Capital Region (ARC), Brenda Blisk focused on two areas she knew a lot about: raising money and appealing to working women. Thanks to her visionary leadership and attention to all areas of the organization, Brenda has created a sustainable revenue stream that has raised more than $1.2 million for ARC. What’s more, the “In the Bag” concept has been so successful that other chapters have adopted similar fundraising models.
For 12 years, Bryan Drowos has been a go-to leader at the Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County, involved in a number of key roles. A key fundraiser, event chair and national speaker, Bryan has helped people both in his own community and as far away as Ethiopia and Mumbai. Today, as a member of the board of directors, executive committee and a regular solicitor of major gifts, he has secured millions for programming, most notably, chairing an event that raised over $1 million in a single night.
During his 12 years at the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Northwest Indiana, Timothy Rice has racked up an impressive set of accomplishments. As capital campaign co-chair, he raised $4 million to renovate and expand the Duneland club, where average daily attendance has grown by 110% since opening in April 2017. Fresh off that campaign, Timothy oversaw due diligence in evaluating a merger between Boys & Girls Clubs of Porter County and another chapter. The combined entity now serves more than 2,300 young people per day at 10 facilities and 11 before- and after-school sites—a major accomplishment that has allowed the organization to win national awards and attention, with the Boys & Girls Club of Northwest Indiana ranked as one of the top 2% of clubs nationally.
Global Impact Award
Giving is personal. For some, that means looking beyond their own communities. Our Global Impact Award honors financial advisors who have helped vulnerable populations living in some of the worst conditions in the world over the past three or more years.
For Jim Quigley, “time off” isn’t about lying on a beach soaking up the sun. In 2006, Jim and his family traveled to Guatemala, where they helped build playgrounds for local schoolchildren. Moved by the experience, Jim and his family began regularly traveling abroad to volunteer. In 2012, Jim and family founded Hope’s In, a nonprofit that builds homes and sponsors classrooms and clinics for families and children living in impoverished neighborhoods in Guatemala. Under Jim’s leadership, Hope’s In volunteers have funded and built 29 homes housing 175 Guatemalan people.
David Shnitzer couldn’t turn a blind eye to what he saw in Cameroon: orphans living in terrible conditions. Following a trip there, David co-founded CameroonONE, a foster care system that identifies children who can be placed with family members living in their birth villages, alleviating the burden on overcrowded orphanages and creating more stable living situations for the children. Once placed in their new homes, CameroonONE provides caretakers with support, jobs and proceeds from a bee-farming sustainability project. The concept has been so successful that David is in the process of expanding to other African nations, including Liberia, Zimbabwe and Gambia.
Bob Solis could have spent his twilight years living on “easy street.” Instead, he and his wife took their life savings and purchased a 70-acre farm in South Africa that would eventually become Open Arms Home for Children, an orphanage that serves 56 children ranging from six months to 17 years, providing food, shelter, education, arts, music, sports and other opportunities. Bob oversees all operational aspects of the orphanage and travels to South Africa multiple times per year. Beyond the good it offers to the children, Open Arms Home for Children employs 43 local staff members who support their families and add to the economic well-being of the community.
Volunteer of the Year Award
Time, not money, is our most precious resource. Our Volunteer of the Year Award recognizes financial advisors who have gone above and beyond over the past three or more years to create or manage a program that has made a lasting impact in the community.
Children need space to be themselves, especially when coping with a serious illness like cancer. When Pat Henry’s son, Nathan, was diagnosed with Leukemia, he was grateful to find such a community in Okizu, which provides support, mentoring and recreational activities to children and families affected by childhood cancer. But when Pat learned that the American Cancer Society could no longer afford to fund the program, he stepped up. Pat joined the board of directors in 2015, and kicked off an annual fundraiser. Over the past three years, donations from the fundraiser have steadily increased—so much so that they raised $150,000 in one evening.
Sacha Millstone looks at music as a way to put young people on a path toward long-term financial stability. As board chair of Funding the Future (FTF), a music-led financial literacy program that has performed for more than 125,000 students in 33 states and Canada, Sacha has been a dedicated supporter, growing the budget, finding funding for unsponsored performances in high-poverty areas and expanding the organization’s repertoire into wider musical genres, including hip-hop, rap and folk rock. Thanks to Sacha’s leadership, FTF has gone from a small startup to a nationally recognized nonprofit.
Touched by his own nephews’ struggles with autism, Stephen Rudolph wanted to ensure that all families have access to vital education and other resources. He joined the board of directors at Milestones Autism Resources, which has served more than 500,000 people on the autism spectrum. As head of the annual fund at Milestones, Steve has brought on new donors, making the fund a key part of the organization’s revenue model. Over the past four years, thanks to Steve’s leadership, the fund has experienced 300% growth.
Lifetime Achievement Award
Between work and family, many people have little time for anything else. Our Lifetime Achievement Award recognizes financial advisors who have made giving back a key part of their lives. Nominees in this category have helped to grow and evolve a nonprofit over a period of 10 or more years.
As founder of Heart of Illinois Harvest, a nonprofit food rescue organization, William Lervaag has provided over 25 million meals to those in need in the Peoria, Illinois area. For 26 years, William has put his heart and soul into the nonprofit, organizing volunteers, building partnerships, fundraising and acting as an overall champion of the organization. Thanks to William’s tireless efforts, Heart of Illinois Harvest has only one paid, part-time staffer, along with 57 volunteer members who, each week, deliver approximately 7.2 tons of food from 55 donors to more than 70 charitable agencies.
Stephen Plain has always believed that all kids should have a safe space to learn, play and relax regardless of their family’s circumstances. In 1993, he helped found the Town of Wallkill Boys & Girls Club. Without budget or staff, the organization initially operated out of a rented school gym space on Saturday mornings. Today, it serves 300 young people in before- and after-school programming, along with two summer camp programs that serve 600 campers. As founding board chair, Stephen has volunteered thousands of hours to the club, providing fiscal oversight and strategic planning guidance.
Pat Sullivan remembers how devastating it was to lose his mother as a young boy. But as an adult, Pat turned his own grief into a way to help others, becoming treasurer of a new nonprofit in his community, Good Grief, which provides free programs to children and families following the death of a mom, dad, sister or brother; educates schools and professionals on how to help families coping with loss: and advocates for grieving families in New Jersey and nationwide. Over the past 14 years, Pat has helped the organization expand exponentially, growing the budget from $200,000 in 2007 to more than $3 million a decade later.
We congratulate all our remarkable nominees. Invest in Others will announce the winners at our gala on Thursday, September 27 at the Westin Boston Waterfront.