Tash Elwyn had a busy May. The head of Raymond James’ employee-advisor division in the Atlantic region just wrapped up organizing the firstRaymond James Cares Month. The effort included almost 300 volunteers from 15 branch offices in an equal number of states, who dedicated more than 1,000 hours to giving back to their communities, the company says. 

Some of the charities and events that received the support of Raymond James’ volunteers last month included Habitat for Humanity, the Philadelphia Chapter of Buoniconti Fund to Cure Paralysis, Outrun the Sun Race against Melanoma in Indianapolis, Stutz Artists Association of Indianapolis, Ronald McDonald House of Louisville and the American Cancer Society Relay for Life in Greenwood, Ind.

The strong participation of its advisors has led Raymond James, and Elwyn, to plan another Raymond James Cares Month next May. And the company says it hopes the program can be expanded to include all regions of the United States in which Raymond James & Associates operates in 2012.

tash elwynTo find out what inspired Elwyn (left) and how the volunteer activities came together, AdvisorOne spoke with him at length about the role of financial advisors in their communities.

 

How did you get started in the business and volunteerism?

Elwyn: I joined the Raymond James’ training program in 1993 and spent my first 10 years with the company in Atlanta, where I grew up. I’ve also been a producing manager in Chattanooga, Tenn., as well as a divisional sales director.

I’ve been a member of Kiwanis International as a club president and member, and have been active also on the college alumni board of Emory University, as well as a board member of the St. Petersburg, Fla., opera company. In addition, I supported Ronald McDonald Charities when I was in Chattanooga.

Thus,Raymond James Cares Month, you could say, was a normal outgrowth of my community involvement to date.

How did you get the idea for Raymond James Cares Month?

Elwyn: The concept was created last summer by a group in the division – the Atlantic Division Advisory Council. This is similar to a client-advisory board that some advisors have, and I have one for my division. It includes several branch managers, operations managers, clients and service associates. We meet once or twice a year in person and do regular phone conferences calls.

I created the idea and then brought it to group’s 15 members. In October 2010, they enthusiastically embraced it. We then worked with our home office to get the infrastructure going for it. That’s how it happened.

Why do you think volunteerism is important for advisors?

Elwyn: I believe it is is tied to our profession and the importance of what we and the industry do. We are taking on the task of supporting of our community, which is a lot like supporting our clients. It’s a good match that we hope our FAs will want to be a part of and have similar interests with.

My specific volunteer activities inspired me to really focus our collective efforts as Raymond James advisors, and we are currently involved in a variety of events and non-profits.

I asked if we could have a concerted effort and thoughtful plan to recruit volunteers within our

branches in the Atlantic division, identify participating organizations that the volunteers would like to get behind and really create some fun, powerful activities in a specific month.

How do you explain the project’s success?

Elwyn: Beyond our division and the advisory committee, much of the credit for the program’s success should go to the local branch managers, financial advisors and service associates. They went with the concept.

Many associates took the bull by the horns and fell in love with the project. They did the heavy lifting by researching which non-profits to support, soliciting volunteers and getting everything up and running.

Overall, in terms of the number of participants for the first year of such a program – nearly 300 – I could not be happier. That’s a staggering number of people, and in the aggregate in May, they volunteered in excess of 1,000 hours to communities. They’ve made a huge difference.

What makes this type of program so meaningful?

Elwyn: From October to May, we built an infrastructure for volunteering at the branch level, and the division worked with them to help develop further game plans. In addition, for the advisors and Raymond James to be an integral part of the community, this effort really needs to be driven from the bottom up rather than top down.

Raymond James has an entrepreneurial spirit. And since was the inaugural year, I expect the program to continue and go national next year. I am happy to lend me help as best I can.

What are your sentiments having seen the plans come to fruition?

Elwyn: I think everyone involved feels a tremendous sense of accomplishment and gratification knowing that we’re part of and care about serving local communities. We demonstrated this in a big way, particularly for the inaugural year. Plus, the program’s going forward, which we’re very excited about. It’s very much a grassroots effort that’s going to take hold.

Lots of advisors got involved above and beyond their normal community activities, with the charities and communities as the real beneficiaries.

What do these kinds of efforts mean for the industry?

Elwyn: They are very positive, whether they support the arts or other types of non-profits. The difference with this type of program is that it really connects people at the local level and focus on having an impact at the local level and within communities.

Would you like to share any other views on RJ Cares Month?

Elwyn: Serving our communities through civic and charitable activities is simply an extension of the same type of commitment we make to serve our clients. I could not be more proud of the 278 associates from throughout the Atlantic Division who chose to volunteer their time and resources in support of the 11 different non-profits in such a distinguished fashion.

The collective impact was equivalent to a full-time employee committing six months of work to community service. We look forward to even bigger and better results next year.