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Stacey Frank, an SVP Denver Partner since 2019, is a financial advisor and owner of A&I Financial Services. Dawn Marshall, an SVP Denver Partner since 2014, is an accountant and engaged philanthropist. They served as the Partners supporting the Denver Indian Family Resource Center (DIFRC) as they sought guidance on how to best utilize a large donation of stock that they had recently received.    

What were the goals of this project with DIFRC?

Dawn:  Our initial goal was to assist DIFRC with an updated policies and procedures manual  in order to assist Tara, the Executive Director, with streamlining their financial activity.  After we had initially scoped out the project, DIFRC received a grant of stock which led to assisting with developing an investment policy statement and working on educating the Board and the team on the investments that DIFRC held.

We helped them gain a better understanding of their revenue sources and whether or not they were recurring.  So much had shifted with them over the past year.  For them, I believe it was a breakthrough as they hadn’t fully comprehended how their funding streams were working and their Board gained a deeper understanding. 

Now that the project is complete, what do you think was the most impactful aspect?

Dawn:  I was able to learn along with the team as Stacey educated us about investments, risk and reward, restricted funding and endowments.  We learned together and had discussions about how much risk a nonprofit should take on.  It was all very interesting. 

Stacey:  We started the project with a question about how DIFRC might manage the stock it received in a grant.  That led to a broader and more in-depth discussion of the organization’s investment needs and risk tolerance, especially the risks of holding a concentrated stock position.

Dawn:  For me, the most impactful part of this  was the partnership between the four of us.  It was an equal partnership.  We were constantly learning together.  No one was really driving the bus.  It was truly a partnership, and I had never had that happen on a project before.  

Stacey:  I concur. That was certainly the most significant impact that it had on me too.  Friendships developed between the four of us because we met regularly and became a part of each other’s lives for this project.  It was fun to see what next steps unfolded.  We learned so much from each other. 

How do you think that your background uniquely positioned you to support DIFRC at this juncture?

Dawn:  I think my finance background and Stacey’s investment background fit perfectly.  We really didn’t step outside of our expertise too much and I think that really helped. 

What did you learn about the work of DIFRC that was particularly inspiring?

Stacey:  For me, interacting with their board gave me a different experience with the organization.  The Board is intentional and very focused on mission.  Our goal was to support the Board and the goals of the organization.  They care a lot about the organization and it really shows.

Dawn:  The Board was very united which is unusual sometimes with Boards.  I was not aware of the history of how American Indian/Alaskan Native (AI/AN) families were treated, such as how  children were taken away from their families and initially put into boarding schools and then into the foster care system.  DIFRC provides reunification support to these families.  I did not know that AI/AN children in Denver still represent a larger population in that system than their representative population in Denver.  I was impressed by what a strong AI/AN  population there is in Colorado and in Denver and thankful to work with an organization that has offered support to this community for over twenty years.

Stacey:  One thing that really surprised me was how Tara gave me a much better understanding of some reasons AI/AN communities have encountered barriers to housing.  For example, some AI/AN lands are held in trust by the Federal government.  Land held in trust isn’t owned outright by families, so mortgage applicants can’t use it as collateral on a home loan. So, that is really prohibitive in terms of home ownership.  It has a big impact on the community. 

Dawn:  One of DIFRC’s goals is to help the  AI/AN community feel safe and welcomed.  As this community experiences a disproportionate amount of homelessness, DIFRC is there to assist in working through the process.   The best example I can give was a story I read early in our engagement.  A large family had moved to Denver from the reservation to get a fresh start and as they were inquiring about housing, the shelter did not recognize their grandma as part of the family, so she had to sleep in their truck.  DIFRC was able to work with the family and their housing partners to find appropriate shelter that included the entire family.  There is a lot of work the DIFRC performs which is very unique to the AI/AN community.

While we were going through this process, Tara was finishing her Masters degree in Native American law which was so impressive.  The organization and its members  are so consistent in their mission and in everything that they do. 

What do you hope will be the long term impact of the collaboration between SVP Denver and DIFRC?

Stacey:  I hope they proceed with confidence.  I hope they feel more confident in their revenue streams and the investments they have so they can continue to fulfill their mission.

Dawn:  I think one of the outcomes, thanks to Stacey, is that they are in the process of hiring an investment advisor.  It was an outcome we were hoping for.  We were really trying to dig under the hood to understand DIFRC’s investments and how they were being used.  I would love to see them do one of our cohorts such as the pitch cohort.  

Stacey:  I would love to continue the relationship and see how they are doing.  It would be wonderful to work with them again as their needs change.  

Any additional thoughts? 

Dawn:  I do think that some of the success points have to do with our meeting every week for an hour on the same day at the same time.   We worked on the project at a pace that worked for everyone. We went past our deadline, but I don’t think anybody ever felt overtaxed and, if they did, we paused for a minute and it made everyone want to come back to the table.  I think the first Tuesday we don’t meet we will all feel at a loss.  

Stacey:  Yes, it was a little highlight placeholder in my calendar. And, kudos to Dawn, as we  opened each session with an icebreaker, and we kept the conversation going between the four core people on the project.  It felt collaborative and it felt like a friendship was developing as another layer in addition to the work that we were doing.  It really didn’t feel like work. 

Dawn:  The project started at the end of January and we thought we would be done in April.  But, we really got involved in the investment piece of it and realized we needed to do extra work. We also saw how DIFRC consistently worked with other AI/AN organizations and vendors in order to support their community.  It was a great project.