Rodman & Associates was recently quoted in the Austin American Statesman’s analysis of the Giving USA 2017 report.  Here we recap three key takeaways from the report as researched and written by the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.

Giving-USA-2017 report cover

All of the philanthropic focus areas tracked went up, a rare occurrence.  For only the sixth time in the last 40 years, every single nonprofit sub-sector tracked—from health, to religion, to human services—realized an increase in donations in 2016.

The arts, environment, and international causes had the largest growth year over year, and we believe this is no coincidence. These are the types of nonprofit organizations working at the cutting edge, utilizing technology and innovation to re-think donor engagement.  Our favorite case in point is the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art’s recent Text to See campaign.

Particularly noteworthy: Giving to international groups grew 4.6 percent in inflation-adjusted dollars, to $22 billion. Especially impressive given there were few of the large-scale international disasters that usually drive that type of engagement.

Individual givers continue to drive American philanthropy.  Charitable giving by families, foundations and corporations all increased in 2016, with a 4% jump in donations from individuals alone. In total, donations from individuals amounted to nearly three-quarters of all giving in 2016.

New patterns emerging. Una Osili, Director of Research for Indiana University’s Lilly Family School of Philanthropy and lead researcher for the Giving USA 2017 report, said they are seeing successful young technology leaders starting their philanthropy earlier in life, as early as their twenties and thirties. These donors are adopting new forms of philanthropy using program related investment, impact investing and more collaborative models of giving.

Giving USA, the longest-running and most comprehensive report of its kind in America, is published by Giving USA Foundation, a public service initiative of The Giving Institute. Year after year the report provides an unparalleled look at how and why people give, and how those patterns unfold over time. A copy of the full report can be purchased here. And as a free resource download the infographic for an overview of major giving trends.

The greatest transfer of generational wealth in American history, coupled with a rising tide of new wealth among American entrepreneurs, has increased the need for donors to be supported in making strategic and effective philanthropic decisions. Rodman & Associates brings years of experience in designing philanthropic giving models, achieving meaningful results and assessing impact.

10 Big Hearts = 1 Tiny Home


The story of the newest residence in Community First! Village started with a group of 10 retired guys who played golf a couple of times a week. Their wives became friends and the group began to socialize, starting a dinner club and even traveling together.

One couple, Skip Helms and his wife Connie, belonged to Lake Hills Church, a congregation providing volunteer services for Mobile Loaves and Fishes, a program that delivers dignity, opportunity and healthy meals to disabled or homeless citizens. This led the couple to Community First! Village, the visionary, ground-up Austin community providing housing for the disabled and chronically homeless and led by the indomitable Alan Graham, CEO of Mobile Loaves and Fishes.

This 27-acre east Austin property is providing individual homes for nearly 200 men and women, with amenities such as an outdoor theatre, a vegetable and flower garden, pens to raise chickens and goats, art and welding studios, and a shop where handmade products can be sold. After Skip Helms visited the Village, he couldn’t wait to tell his golfing buddies about this amazing place.

The group wanted to know more, so the couples all went to Community First! Village and took a tour, then shared a group meal on the property. They learned that the project was supported entirely by private funding, that there was a packet of Tiny Home designs that donors could choose from and see built, that residents were carefully selected and supported, and that all residents worked on the property to pay their rent and other expenses. Skip’s son in law, a builder, said “If you fund one of these houses, I’ll build it.”

They opened a dedicated account where each couple could personally and privately donate whatever they chose and quickly had enough funding to build a house. It is nearly complete now, and the group will assist in adding the finishing touches of interior décor and landscaping.

Like the other Tiny Homes in the village, it has a wide front porch to encourage engagement and community—it is not called Community First! by accident. Once the new resident is selected and moves in, the group will attend a home blessing, further personalizing their generous gift.

This lovely act of collective philanthropy was not the result of a fundraising campaign. In fact no one was asked for money. Each donor came to the project from their own motivations, aspirations and past experiences.

Skip Helms was attracted to the chance for real engagement, to meet the beneficiary.

Roger Hamm was inspired years before by his daughter’s head of school, Dr. Judy Knotts, and her passionate advocacy for the homeless. He said, “To think we could be helpful in bringing reality to a person’s dream of living away from the streets was especially motivating.”

Jim Hilton said he understood that homelessness is a tragedy that may seem impossible to overcome, but this project was “meeting the problem in a way that was local and tangible”.

Community First! Village just acquired another 27 acres, creating more opportunity for the homeless to heal—a place where they can rediscover hope, renew their purpose, and restore their dignity. Most important, it’s a place they can call home.

This story shows that those who bring their philanthropy to this need, and participate in seeing this vision realized, also receive a significant and meaningful gift. For Rodman & Associates, we work every day to match purposeful donors with tangible needs, creating an outcome that is a gift for all. This is at the heart of all we do.  Join us!

From Overalls to Black Tie…building a better board

sm Overallssm Black Tie

We field more questions from colleagues about the role of a nonprofit Board than just about anything else. The answer is always, “it depends”.

As a nonprofit organization matures, a healthy Board will grow right along with it. For an organization to be sustainable over the long-term current leaders must face up to the realities of what it will take to successfully lead the organization in the future.  A board member who is valuable at the early stage of development may not have the appropriate skills necessary to be an effective board member of a fully developed organization, and vice versa.

We’d like to share this very visual description of the life stages of board development—From Overalls to Black Tie.

Overalls  The Board of Directors consists of a group of founding board members, the organization has no staff, and board members dedicate a LOT of time to the organization.  The Board’s focus is on building out the organization’s structure, planning is week to week, and fundraising comprises a series of special events aimed at introducing the organization to the community.

Shirtsleeves  At this stage of development the organization will have a very small staff (often only one person). The Board of Directors remains willing to perform hands on work while any future planning is still quarter to quarter. The Board’s focus is on operations while funding comes from events plus smaller grants.

Blue Suit  Staffing is comprehensive and essential to providing programs. Members of the Board contribute their business skills and network to benefit the organization. The Board’s planning is long range, and funding comes from high-level individual donors and foundations.

Black Tie  Staff is highly specialized and qualified. The Board’s role is exclusively governance, and its planning is long term and strategic.  Funding is institutionalized.

Key takeaways:

  • a full understanding of an organization’s appropriate board type helps to guide the board recruitment process;

  • understanding what type of board you are invited to serve on gives you a better understanding of roles, responsibilities, and expectations.

Can We Talk About Money?

When I accepted a position as the Development Director for a small Austin nonprofit, I thought that my years of service in the sector would inform the role. I had been a nonprofit founder, board member, leader and consultant. Surely, I could effectively apply these experiences to this new role. But, as it turned out, it was older lessons — learned when I was a financial advisor — that would serve me best.

During 14 years managing portfolios for my clients, I learned from the trenches how to, and how not to, talk about money. Being a Development Director is all about money, right? Now, as a Philanthropic Advisor with Rodman & Associates, I work to serve the interests of non-profits and foundations, corporations, families and individuals. We are still talking about money, specifically how to do good in the world through philanthropy.

There are similar practices among non-profits and the world of business and finance, some that work well, and others, not so much. I’d like to share what I learned about three of them: Building Relationships, Making the Ask and Donor Retention.

Building Relationships: As a rookie broker, I was required to make 30 cold calls each day. That is how I would build my business, I was told — by calling strangers and asking them to buy the stock pick of the day or open an account with me. This strategy was as ineffective as sending mass mailings to strangers asking them to support my non-profit. Or shooting off a quiver full of grant requests and hoping to hit the bullseye once or twice. The statistical return on efforts like this is abysmal, less than 3 percent. I soon left this investment firm, joined another, and my new boss offered a different strategy: “Get out into the community, serve, let people come to know and trust you. Then, when they need financial advice, they will come to you.” I did, and they did. As a representative of Rodman & Associates, or of a nonprofit, there is no substitute for having a presence in the community, being of service, sincerely telling my story and listening to those of others. When those stories intersect in passion and purpose, they serve to continue the conversation for the benefit of all.

Making the Ask: Nonprofit board and staff often tell me that fundraising is tortuous, awkward work. They do not feel comfortable asking for money. I think there is a different way to view this conversation that again relates to the financial services. What if this conversation is about an investment rather than a gift? If I effectively share the story of my organization’s mission and successful outcomes, and if the potential funder has priorities that intersect with our work, they may want to make an investment in our organization. This investment would pay off for them by seeing their own goals realized through our efforts. The key, also drawing from the client/broker relationship, is that my role as their representative is a pledge to be a responsible steward of their investment — to ensure that their funds will be used wisely in service of their intent and the organization’s mission. If you view the conversation this way, the awkward discomfort can be diminished. Not the least because there is no pressure on either of you. If your nonprofit’s work does not intersect with this funder’s priorities, then they should not invest with you, nor should you ask them to. If it does intersect, then the ask may not be necessary. Rather, they may inquire: “What can I do to help?”

Donor Retention: The stock market is easy to track — we see reports on it every day, many times a day. But an individual client is not necessarily informed by the action in the market. Each portfolio is unique and ideally matches the client’s personal financial needs, risk tolerance and goals for the future. Reports to my clients, and how often they were given, were tailored in content and timing to their portfolio. The more personal and targeted my communications, the better the chances of retaining my clients and engaging in deeper financial planning for them. Likewise, each nonprofit funder is unique, from the individual donor, to the foundation, to the corporate grantor. We on the receiving end need to communicate with those on the giving end according to their interests, priorities and timing needs. The email newsletter, annual report, or generic grant report may be only one needed communication. As we look at fundraising activities, getting dollars in the door is just one goal and if we think that is our scorecard, we may struggle to retain that donor’s interest. Consider having a coffee date to share news of a new initiative, writing a brief note about a recent accomplishment, doing research into a donor’s area of passion or asking for advice in their area of expertise. All these actions can contribute to that important person or organization feeling valued and included, and staying engaged.

Joy Selak Joins Rodman & Associates

Former MINDPOP development director founded two nonprofits, was ZACH Theatre president

AUSTIN, Texas—Rodman & Associates, an Austin-based philanthropic advisory firm, announced that in April, Joy Selak, Ph.D., joined the team to help individuals, families and organizations plan their giving in ways that are strategic and impactful.

RA - Welcome Joy - Twitter ImageSelak has more than 20 years in nonprofit leadership at organizations including Austin’s MINDPOP, ZACH Theatre, and A Legacy of Giving, which she and a group of Austin leaders founded in 2007 with a mission to grow a new generation of philanthropists among the students of Central Texas.

As a Chartered Advisor in Philanthropy (CAP®), Selak is a member of a growing network of top planners working to make philanthropy more effective and dynamic for generations to come. The CAP certification has been awarded to nearly 1600 candidates nationwide from the American College of Financial Services.

The robust curriculum is designed to build expertise in areas including legacy and family giving, fundraising strategies and board and non-profit assessment. Selak is the third candidate to earn the CAP in Austin.

Over the last three years, Selak served as the development director at MINDPOP and assisted the Austin nonprofit in raising funds to meet their mission to ensure students have access to the arts and learn in creative classrooms. During this time, she also served on the National Board of the Interstitial Association in Washington DC and was Fundraising Chair.

From 2011 through 2013, Selak was president of Austin’s ZACH Theatre during the capital campaign and building of the Topfer Theatre, and chair of the organization’s five-year strategic planning effort. In her 12 years of board tenure at ZACH, she has served as chair of the education, membership and executive committees and led task force groups to develop a vision for ZACH’s education programs and create a board policy manual.

Prior to her nonprofit career, Selak served as a vice president of investments at Morgan Stanley-Smith Barney where she and her husband managed over $100 million in client assets and opened a new office for the firm on San Juan Island, Washington. In 1997, with the support of a matching donor, they founded the San Juan Island Community Foundation, which serves a community of 8,000. The foundation continues to receive strong community support, completing a goal in 2013 to raise $10 million to build the Peace Hospital on the island and awarding nearly $190,000 in college scholarships to graduating seniors in 2016.

Lisa Rodman, founder and principal of Rodman & Associates, said that Selak’s experience and record of leadership are invaluable for Austin and the organizations that serve this strongly philanthropic community.

“Joy Selak has a wealth of knowledge about every aspect of the nonprofit world, and an unsurpassed understanding of community and philanthropic needs,” Rodman said. “What makes her background even more powerful is her experience as an investment advisor. As with making smart financial investments, she knows the importance of helping donors make strategic and effective philanthropic decisions.

“When those two aspects come together, everybody wins – the nonprofits that fulfill critical needs and depend on support, and the donors who choose to engage in philanthropy rooted in meaning, purpose and social impact,” Rodman said. “Joy knows how to accomplish that.”

Selak’s role at Rodman & Associates is focused on assisting individuals, families and organizations in identifying philanthropic priorities, assessing community needs and establishing giving structures for greatest effect and benefit. As a philanthropic advisor, she helps her clients articulate and advance their highest aspirations for self, family and society.

Purpose beyond Profits

The Purpose Effect

Many long-running cause marketing campaigns ceased to exist this year. Lee’s Denim Day, Yoplait’s Save Lids to Save Lives and Campbell’s Labels for Education to name just a few.

So what’s going on? Could this be the death knell for Cause Marketing?

At Rodman & Associates, we think not.  Companies–and their consumers–have become more sophisticated, and they are demanding more from Cause Marketing campaigns.  The evolving trend is for corporations to define and create a unique program that reflects the core DNA of the business itself.

Outstanding examples include: (more…)

How should a nonprofit react when a benefactor becomes involved in scandal?

Rendering of Foisie Innovation Studio and Residence Hall at WPI.
Rendering of Foisie Innovation Studio and Residence Hall at WPI.

The news is full of examples where economic need and overworked fundraising staff lead a nonprofit to accept a gift too quickly.

One story making big headlines is that of Robert Foisie and his $40 million dollar gift to his alma mater the Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI). (more…)