Christine Gustafson has acquired a formidable record in fund-raising over the past 20 years, one that has lately been recognized by her colleagues. A philosophy of giving drives both her philanthropic efforts and her business. “I don't see them as separate,” says Gustafson, 49, who leads The Gustafson Group at UBS Wealth Management in Phoenix, Ariz. She prefers to work with clients who have both charitable as well as personal financial objectives, even if their asset levels are lower than those of other prospects with deeper pockets and no interest in philanthropy. James Gillivan, a retired broker colleague of hers, recalls being pressed by her years ago about what he did for charity. Today he's involved in two organizations, but he says it was Gustafson that planted the seed in his mind.
A graduate of the University of Virginia, Gustafson served on the college's Investment Management Co. for more than 10 years, helping to oversee its then-$800 million endowment (it's about $4.2 billion today.) She also chaired a committee that ran a kick-off event for the college's $3 billion capital campaign. Two years ago she was recognized with the university's Distinguished Alumna Award, a distinction shared by U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and CBS news anchor Katie Couric. Closer to home, Gustafson is active in the Heart Ball in Phoenix, the annual fundraiser for the local chapter of the American Heart Association (it netted $1.3 million when she chaired the event in 2003.) She estimates she's personally raised about $7.5 million for charitable causes over the years, although the various boards on which she's served have generated far more.
Her advice to advisors is to put their money, time and talents to use in causes that fill their souls. “You've got to walk the walk if you're going to talk the talk,” Gustafson says. The Heart Association matters to her, for example, because of the long history of heart disease in her family. She also cautions advisors against using philanthropic activities as an avenue for generating sales. Gustafson recalls getting taken to lunches by advisors and being asked what charitable boards they should join in order to find clients. “I usually want to say, ‘Check, please,’ because they're asking the wrong question, and I know their heart isn't in it,” she says. “I usually try to counsel them and say, ‘Don't do something because you think it's going to look good on your resume. Find the thing that speaks to you and you care about, because at the end of the day you're going to put a lot of hours into it.’”
Firm: The Gustafson Group, UBS Wealth Management
City: Phoenix, Ariz.
Years as a rep: 24
Years with current firm: 3
Production: $1 million
AUM: $587 million
Product mix: bonds, 10%; stocks, 20%; managed accounts, 70%.
Specialty: Foundations and endowments.
Designations, licenses: Series 7, 65, insurance.