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Impact Through Philanthropy with Dan Rashke CEO TASC

Podcast Published On: 02.12.2019
Found In: Leadership

Episode Summary

Impact through philanthropy

Well, a couple things happened. My mother and father were both very involved, whether it was for age and uh, volunteering there, but then, um, my father probably more so because it brought the business element into it as well as the personal on the personal side. He intentionally joined the school board so that he could get a rule change to get a disabled neighbor picked up at the school bus because the rules were the school bus couldn’t go on this one road because it was outside a certain boundary. So he fought for that change. And I remember running into one of my wife’s classmates who remembers that because it was his sister that that happens. So that was something really telling. Another example is when he ran his insurance agency, um, he put together the celebrities, if you would, for Special Olympics when it moved from Milwaukee to Steven’s point, which was our Home Office.

What was your Aha moment?

Those are probably the two very visible things. And as our business grew, we started to look at what we should be doing as a business and it slowly moved over time. But like your child growing, when they’re in front of you, you don’t necessarily see it, but if you go from point a and you go 20 years later, wow, where did they come from? So I think now we’re at that wow moment. But no, there were no big impacts other than those first couple of explain. It was an incremental movement toward this. A position of strategic philanthropy.

About Dan Rashke, Executive of the Year 2019 InBusiness award winner

CEO Tasc

Dan has worked in the tax-advantaged employee benefit field since 1983 and in 1995 was named TASC CEO. Under his leadership, TASC has become the nation’s largest privately held third-party administrator. With nearly 900 employees across the U.S., TASC is recognized as one of the top five national third-party administrators of employee benefit plans.

In addition to leading the business side of TASC, Dan inspires a deep culture of philanthropy and giving back in TASC employees and the community through TASC Cares, the internal philanthropic side of TASC. To encourage giving and volunteerism, Dan has introduced innovative benefits to TASC employees, including paid time off for volunteering and the GiveBack workplace giving platform.

In 2015, Dan was named one of the HealthCare Consumerism Superstars and Industry Innovator Awards winners, recognized as a finalist in the Annual Golden Bridge Awards® for Chief Executive of the Year, and listed as one of the 25 most influential people in Madison, Wisconsin, by Madison’s In Business magazine. In the past, Dan has been honored through the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award Program, won Madison Magazine’s Brian Howell Excellence in Innovation Award, and was recognized by the Wisconsin Better Business Bureau Torch Award Program for ethics and integrity.

Dan is a current member of the Board of Directors for State Bank of Cross Plains, Ha Ha’s HERO Foundation, and Wall Family Enterprise. He has also served on the Board of Directors for Kiio, a technology business focused on the design, development, manufacture, and distribution of objective measurement and tracking devices for rehabilitation and physical therapy, the American Family Children’s Hospital Development Partners, and Meriter Hospital and Meriter Health Services, and served as the 2015 Campaign Chair of the United Way of Dane County.

Dan Rashke

Dan Rashke



Contact Dan

Episode Transcription

Introduction: Welcome to the Inspire People Impact Lives podcast. This podcast is for people who are looking to get more out of life by making an impact on those around them. Each week we bring you local influential business and community leaders, delivering powerful messages to help you live a more inspiring and impactful life coming to you live from Northwestern Mutual Middleton. Here’s your host, Josh Kosnick.

Josh: Welcome to another episode of Inspire People Impact Lives today. We are talking about inspiring people and impacting lives through philanthropy and joining us is Dan Rashke, CEO and owner of TASC Total Administrative Services Corporation, which is the nation’s largest privately held, third party administrator of employee benefits. Dan has made huge impacts through his philanthropic work. It is something that is dear to him and is built in to the moral fabric of his organization. So Dan, welcome to the show. So tell us a little bit about your upbringing, what, uh, you know, who are key influencers and creating your love for philanthropic and why that is.

Dan: So real quick born a baby of six in Milwaukee. I’m the baby is six and born in Milwaukee, six months old, moved to a dairy farm in central Wisconsin. So I had the pleasure of growing up as a little rug rat, if you would, with older brothers and sisters on the, uh, farms. A lot of times people say you grow up on a farm, you must know what hard work’s like. And I said, well, I could see hard work because, uh, of my family. So I had a chance to understand it and emulate it.

Josh: Wow that’s cool. So we picked on a lot is the baby?

Dan: No there was a little gap there and uh, I had my, um, my guiding coalition if you would inside my brothers and sisters. So I had a few that made sure I was taking care of.

Josh: So, through that work or that hard work or at least perception of, is there anything specifically there that taught you the way of philanthropy and kind of formed your opinions today?

Dan: Well, a couple things happened. My mother and father were both very involved, whether it was 4H and uh, volunteering there, but then, um, my father probably more so because it brought the business element into it as well as the personal. On the personal side, he intentionally joined the school board so that he could get a rule change to get a disabled neighbor picked up at the school bus because the rules were the school bus couldn’t go on this one road because it was outside a certain boundary. So he fought for that change. And I remember running into one of my wife’s classmates who remembers that because it was his sister that that happened. So that was something really telling. Another example is when he ran his insurance agency, um, he put together the celebrities, if you would, for Special Olympics when it moved from Milwaukee to Steven’s point, which was our Home Office.

Dan: And first I just saw it as all the wine and dine celebrity, recruit them, you know, they’d go out with the kids and. But I had a chance at 15, 16 years old to participate with the athletes in camps. So not only did I get a chance to maybe meet somebody like Mike Reinfeld of the oilers who worked for the Packers, but I had a chance to run a camp with the athletes and that was probably really what clicked for me because, um, I could see the byproduct of my time and energy put forth for this individual or these group of individuals that don’t have the same advantages. You and I have.

Josh: Yeah that immediate impact you could see.

Dan: Yeah. Right there very visual versus a behind the scenes or writing a check.

Josh: I’ve done some work with the Special Olympics as well. And in those events, the joy you see on their faces, it’s hard not to get caught up in that emotion as well.

Dan: Yeah. So very early on I was led into it, I guess from a personal perspective and from a business perspective.

Josh: That’s cool. Was there one or was that your Aha moment or was there anything else early on that kinda stuck out to you as going this is something I want to intertwine into my whole life?

Dan: Those are probably the two very visible things. And as our business grew, we started to look at what we should be doing as a business and it slowly moved over time. But like your child growing, when they’re in front of you, you don’t necessarily see it, but if you go from point a and you go 20 years later, wow, where did they come from? So I think now we’re at that wow moment. But no, there were no big impacts other than those first couple I explained. It was an incremental movement toward this position of strategic philanthropy.

Josh: Well that’s great. So let’s talk a little bit more of a business question, but tell us about your journey as an individual and a business leader. Beyond saying your personal values and running a business.

Dan: Yeah. So I wrestle with this subject and I tried to get my brain around it and I created this thing called a spectrum of philanthropic commitment and it starts on a personal side where usually people get involved because their heart and their mind wants to do something like I did with those athletes, you know? And then from an active philanthropy I labeled that when you bring your kind of stewardship to the table, so a little bit like church, you know, number one, show up, number two, give of your, uh, mind, but then also open up your checkbook. So then I went, there independent and then you’ve got your corporate philanthropy, which is really more of your corporate social responsibility. And then strategic philanthropy is on the other end of that spectrum. So I have a, if the audience can visualize this color spectrum, there’s this movement through these phases based on what you’re trying to achieve.

Josh: Oh, that’s really good. That’s really good. So what was it like working with your dad? You mentioned that in pre-show we were talking about that and we have some similarities there, you know, so working with your dad and transitioning the company through a really difficult time, what changed and stayed true and why?

Dan: Well, yeah, we did talk offline a little bit sometimes with family you butt heads a little bit. One thing with my father is , when I butt heads, we could still get aligned on the vision and uh, we had a difficult time in two points. One, we almost went under in the early nineties, another difficult time was we had a major undertaking and, he did name me a CEO in 95 and um, it was when I was 30 years old, just had my first child and lost my mom and all that in one throw and my brother who is six years my senior was working with us and I got tapped for the job he did not. So that created a very interesting dynamic, but with my father and I, we could always anchor to some real core values or purpose driven. So it gave us an opportunity. Even though we butt heads and we get disjointed in some things, you could always go back to your core and then you’d find out, well really we’re not that far off base. It’s just we have different ways of getting from point a to point different methods due to various reasons are inflection points. And how we grew up or what we believe on the details.

Josh: So any major lessons from business almost going under in the early nineties or anything that come out of there for some business owners or leaders struggling right now?

Dan: Yeah. If you were in a position where you’re going under. We called it hunker down. And what we did is we, we hunker down, we got focused on only one or two objectives and we stopped spending money everywhere except the critical items, which is, um, keep the lights on and sales efforts. And we drove revenue. It’s ironic. We almost went under and we were probably like 200,000 in revenue in the business and then we’re about to go under. And that was 92. And then in 95 I took over and we were four and a half million. So to give you an idea, we came off that bottom so hard bounced up that it drove us from nothing to now we had an organization with four and a half million in revenue, tons of customers and uh, and staff. And we’re scrambling to keep up. But I’d rather have that problem, the first problem, but I say hunker down, hunker down, and get focused and don’t let anything get in your way.

Josh: That’s such great advice. Like what he just said there is take aim at those most crucial items, those top priorities. No more than three you said two. So that’s, that’s great. And then it was really a springboard or a launch pad once they hit bottom and like you said, just take off from there. So the good things can happen if you stay focused on those than stay aligned on those priorities.

Dan: Yeah. And then the trick is once you get there, you can’t stay on that single or two focus because you need to evolve the business and change because if you don’t do that, probably dead again. So then you have to start opening up and do things that are more thoughtful and innovative and maybe open up a few other objectives and goals. But once again, if that starts to hurt you, then you gotta narrow again. So business is, um, kind of like your body. It’s evolving and changing and you have to keep looking forward to make it better in your mind, but then at times you might get in a tough spot and then you just gotta focus.

Josh: That’s really great advice. So I want to touch on the family aspect there again, one more time because in the Madison community and the business community in general, it’s like two degrees of separation. Growing up I knew of a lot of family businesses. Being a financial advisor, I worked with a lot of family businesses and it was natural for me because I was in somewhat of a family business. Uh, and there’s all. I always say that family businesses at some level are dysfunctional, there is some level of dysfunction in a family business no matter how many family members are involved, if it’s just two. But in yours you had an older brother that didn’t get tapped on the shoulder. How did you guys navigate those waters?

Dan: Yeah, I think the, the dysfunction is, um, can be concerning and difficult. It also is what makes that sauce secrety and good. I was just at a Kellogg School of Business in Northwestern, a family business center. I was sent there for four days, immersion around family business, so I was sitting next to me, his other independent directors, family owners and you’re talking fourth, fifth generation, a hundred and 60 cousins owning the business and, a lot of darkness was being brought forth and I remember one family person saying, wait a minute, wait a minute. It’s not so dark. There’s a lot of good things about it. Even though you’re dysfunctional, you’ve got love, you’ve got trust, you’ve got a good family environment and you have an opportunity to work together as a family. So even though we struggled, I think it wasn’t about the personalities in the family, it was more about getting aligned on the vision.

Dan: So if you have three people and one is not aligned to where we’re going, the other two are, you’re going to have a disconnect. So it ended up with my brother. He moved on, but we have a great relationship and ironically, he just came back to work for me for probably the last three or four years of his career, so that was in the nineties and uh, it was probably in the best interest of the family that we did go where we went, just like, um, my father there got to a point where I needed to buy him out because I could see his direction and my direction, which was always aligned and anchored became fractured. It wasn’t fractured because of personalities, just he was at a different stage in his life and I was at a different stage. Yeah, exactly. I think you can relate.

Josh: Experts say that you are the average of the five people you hang out with and the books that you read. We’d like to suggest the podcast that you listened to as well, so hit that subscribe button and add Madison’s top leaders to your circle. We’d also encourage you to share this podcast with as many friends as possible. Our mission is simple to inspire people and impact lives. If you know of a friend or colleague that could benefit from listening to some of Madison’s top leaders, give us a share. Now back to our guest.

Josh: Very much so. Now I have my younger brother, my youngest brother, uh, working with me. I brought him back a few years, few years ago. He actually stayed away from my father and I and built his own business down in Phoenix, Arizona where he, uh, with Northwestern mutual as well. But uh, uh, he wanted to stay away from us to, to grow it on his own. He went to ASU. So it was a natural thing to grow it there as we were growing so fast here and I was taking over. I needed help. And so I brought him back, but there’s those times, even last night, uh, he calls me. There was a problem later in the day I got kinda heated. I was having a great day. And then there’s this problem that gets dropped on me that he had something to do with.

Josh: So I got frustrated and he said, you fix it. I was like, this is not my problem. I did not create it, you fix it, and he hung up on me. Like son of a like, don’t hang up on me, but no, it was one of those things where you deal with that kind of like a normal employee is not going to hang up on you, but your brother’s gonna hang up on you every once in a while I would say just balancing that ego and pride and be like, all right. I just told them to fix the problem. As long as you fix the problem, no issues I won’t even bring up that you hung up on me. But uh, other than that, if he doesn’t then we’re gonna have an issue with hanging up on me and not fixing the issue.

Dan: Yeah. So a good image of that is, um, I had an image created for me for a different purpose. It was a prism and it had a light going through and then the fraction of light in the colors and somebody said that looks like a Pink Floyd’s dark side of the moon. And, uh, I look at a family business kind of like that, you know, uh, if you look at the songs on the album, you know, it’s got money, it’s got different things in that family business, but the dark side might be one thing, but if you get on the other side, the light is very colorful and the fractures and it isn’t always dark and gloomy even though there’s characteristics of it that is kind of the dark side of the moon, well, there’s that other side which is a light and the reflection and all the positive things. So just like your situation, you’re under dark side for a little bit, but then you’ll, you’ll get back around to the light side for sure.

Josh: Becasue it happened last night I wanted to bring that up as I’m sure a lot of family businesses go through that stuff, but were there any mistakes you made early on in your career as a leader. And what did you learn from them?

Dan: From a business perspective? Um, I’m in my decision making. I focused too much on efficiency and not effectiveness. So one of my business moves as I combined my sales organization that was going after two different markets because I thought, well, silly, why are they driving through the same towns when, if I had them meet with the two different segments, we’d be very efficient and it really hurt us. And uh, I remember working with my board of advisors and my father was on that board and they were coaching me, uh, get away from org charts, think work design, get away from efficiency, think effectiveness, get away from cost cutting your way to prosperity, grow your way to prosperity. So those were probably a few of the things that came into play in that period that right when I took over like 95, there’s probably a five year window of.

Dan: I had the opportunity to have those, uh, those events. The other thing is when asked ’em why did my father choose me? And I asked him before he passed and um, and he said, because you’ll charge pork chop hill. And I didn’t really know what he meant by that, but what it was is sometimes life or business, you know, it doesn’t work out the way you want. Sometimes you just got to go into the fight. Whatever that fight is, could be fight for your health, could be fight for your marriage, could be fight for sales, could be fight for survival. And he just felt that was an important piece. So then instead of me shying away from that, that drive, that fanatic discipline to the recipe that I thought was a negative. No, it’s not a negative, it’s a positive. Now you have to temporary at once in a while so that not everybody feels you just running over the top of them and you’re micromanaging. But to have that laser focus, we’re going to get up that hill, we’re going to win this battle. Maybe war is not the best analogy to use, but I think the audience kind of gets what I mean.

Josh: Yeah. No, I definitely get what you mean and the crucial thing you said there about the board of advisors is sometimes us as the leaders are too close to the forest through the trees. They were really pointing you in the right direction and say you need to consider it this way versus this way and not changing your overall mission, but just changing your aim. And that’s, really helpful for those that don’t have a board of advisors, you need it.

Dan: I would like to offer one other point and that is, um, surround yourself with people that are good and um, surround yourself with people who are smarter than you. So I’ve been blessed to have a solid advisory group, whether they’re formal or informal and then a, um, uh, a team working that in their areas, you know, they’re very strong. So we were able to shift our thinking from more tactical operational to more strategic like even in philanthropy. The idea of being more strategic with philanthropy, um, is a shift versus from just basic corporate social responsibility.

Josh: Agreed. It’s been said that, if you find yourself to be the smartest person in the room, you need to find a different room. So that’s key in creating that board and surrounding yourself with better people. So why did you make the decision to ingrain philanthropy and volunteer work into the culture at TASC?

Dan: It probably moves to that subject that I referenced, a strategic philanthropy on the end of the spectrum because if you can find a, um, an opportunity to take, if you saw an x and y axis in your mind and you look at your business interests on one axis and you look at your social interests on the other axis , you’re trying to find that convergence or sweet spot in your philanthropy. So you’re serving the social interest, but yet you’re still a business. So the business has to be prudent, has to think of its customers, its employees and the financial ramifications of that. So I’m a believer that still serve the business interests, um, and find that sweet spot between the social and the business. Volunteerism is critical there. It reaches the younger people. If they can see the problem, they will then get behind the problem financially. It’s a development opportunity. I actually see a convergence, if you would, VIN model where you’ve got human capital development, philanthropy in innovation. They all intersect. So we put together a whole slate of things that really fosters an environment for that, that business interest to be aligned with the social interest.

Josh: That’s so good. I couldn’t agree with you more. Some of the work that we’ve done just when I took over. Uh, I was just thinking about this like you get hit up as a CEO or a business owner all the time, not only for philanthropic stuff but just advertising in general. And so it could be, you know, UW athletic stuff of that nature. Um, and it’s cool to go to the Cole Center or Camp Randall and some of those companies get a lot of play off that. So when I was approached by that, I’m like, I’m sitting there. I couldn’t envision one client walking through our doors just because they saw Northwestern Mutual sign at the Cole Center I just couldn’t envision it. Like I wouldn’t do that and I could be totally wrong, but where I, where I saw a lot of play is, if we could throw philanthropic events, charitable events, and spend advertising dollars there and bring our clients involved in, not only have our advisors do work, but have clients do work that raises money for the greater good. I was like, I could see business traction there. And so there’s where I put our advertising dollars as towards that.

Dan: Yeah, it makes sense if you’re on one axis of, um, the, that graph and you’re purely about the business with a little bit of social. Well that’s job creation. That’s a simple example when you’re on the social side and you write a check to that foundation or two that auw or whatever. It’s really just a social interest, but you get a little bit of brand. I think when you brought together the event you’re talking about, which is an event that’s around a social item with your particular business, you are needing networking, relationship development, prospecting. So it’s very logical that that serves a business as well. TASC. The organization that I’m patty and I own and I I run isn’t the same kind of business because we’re across the nation. We still have relationships, but it’s not the same, so we had to find a different set of tools or a or a goto market go to community approach than you did, but you’re doing strategic philanthropy by making that decision now you’re still going to create jobs over here for the business and place business to help me as your customer, which is going to serve our community and you’re still going to write checks because someone’s going to ask you and it’s going to be for pure social.

Dan: Don’t stop doing those things, but if you can find more movement toward that convergence of social and business, I think it does. You and the community, more goo. And your your listeners, I’m assuming or are people like me. They’re people that might be executives in companies and it’s really about them finding their sweet spot inside their business and don’t do something because the other entity is doing it. Find the thing that makes sense for their particular business model. That’s a great piece of advice. Don’t do something just because our competitors during that, you’re trying to want to do it because it makes more sense for your strategic vision. Books. Great Advice. If I could. I met a gentleman and he runs the philanthropy for his family business and they place medical devices like in operating rooms like operating tables and that.

Dan: So there strategic philanthropy is when they sell new stuff, they pull the old stuff out and they don’t let it get back into inventory in the US because he says if that gets back into inventory then I can’t sell somebody a new product. So he was purely focused on his business. So what he does is he takes those tables, ships them overseas via World Vision and puts those use tables in these third world country hospitals. Now you’ve got the social side, but he tied it to his business interest so he’s just pulling inventory out like people would take out a washing machine when you bought a new one and you repurpose it with habitat for humanity. He was doing the same thing and I found it very fascinating, but that’s an example of it’s got to work for his type of business.

Dan: Oh yeah, yeah. Which is nothing wrong with that. Right. Tax Avoidance or tax incentives are a good thing.

Josh: They put them there for a reason. So now going back to that ingraining philanthropy and volunteer work into the culture at TASC. I think just based on our conversation, this first question is really a no brainer, but the second one, let’s get into a little bit of that. Was this an easy decision for you and then what were some hurdles that you encountered on way?

Dan: I think it was an easy decision, you know, as they said, it was kind of pathing incrementally. Uh, I do remember a vivid moment. Um, we had supported the American family children’s hospital at uew and they let us use the community room for a board meeting and I had a theme around philanthropy and I had a theme around our end game for our business and I remember in that room, uh, giving the tour and the hospital gave the tour because we wrote a check, but I asked a question, I said I want to give our employees 40 hours of paid volunteer time because I was heading toward this.

Dan: I’m more strategic philanthropy and I wanted to check up and say, am I an idiot for doing that? Because that’s a lot of, um, resources. Forty hours, there’s 50 weeks, that’s one, that’s two percent of my workforce if they were to all go off and use it. And um, I remember the board saying, if not you then who? So and that was led by my father and a few other executives and they kind of looked at it as that, that dropping that stone into water and creating a ripple effect. We’re actually seeing signs of that now. So one of the things that is really attractive to people in joining our organization is the 40 hours of paid volunteer time, so we pay them to go out and volunteer. So you could do a mission trip for a week or you could do, I’m delivering meals on wheels and eat up so much time.

Dan: So we create a flexible environment and paid so they don’t lose income. Then what we found at some people go beyond that. They invest in their personal time. So then we do dollars for doers for that and put $5 an hour, not a big sum into an account that they can give away what it did for the business as it gave us an identity that people could relate to. And if you have people coming into a service business and they care for people, uh, I listened to your podcast with a sweeney and uh, you know, that caring element will, that caring element transcends to good service and a people who care people will give, usually transcends to happiness. Studies show will happiness studies show transcends the productivity, productivity transcends economic gain. So if you follow the string and there may not be a perfect cause and effect, but there’s clearly a correlation in the, in those studies.

Dan: So there was like a light bulb that hit and that would have probably been, I don’t know, when did the children’s hospital go out? Maybe like 2010 or something like that. Years. Yeah, 10 years or something. I can’t remember now. Time flies. But that was the trigger. So we started getting very rich and our, our elements inside our business from a philanthropy perspective. Crazy. Uh, there were a few at that table who was questioning the economic consideration and um, because they were very, um, being counter ashmore a math, you know what I mean? I’m superior to remember. Yeah, yeah. Would you want and you need and you want that and any board you want them to debate the subject. So it wasn’t a negative. But then when we walked out of there, we were all aligned on the decision. Now, a little hint to the people listening, a little thing.

Dan: When you give 40 hours, everybody thinks, oh my God, the actual actuarial, the utilization is about 13 to 14 percent. Now a lot of people could look at that and say, well now that’s a negative because they’re only 14 percent. How is that a negative 14 percent of 40 hours. So we’re trying to do is we’re trying to share this information so that organizations, if they give up two days or 20 hours actuarily they’ll know what that’s really costing them. If you have the CPA at the table, but the intangible gain I think blows that away. It’s just hard to put the pencil to what the. What is the gain of attracting that new employee that you didn’t have to work hard to recruit? You know, what is the value of getting another customer? I mean you don’t always know, but you could kind of guess what it, what it probably is.

Josh: Absolutely. In other words, as you looked at, or as you were saying that the way I looked, I was like, that’s 14 percent of community service, the scoring into our communities. There wasn’t there before. Yeah, so of course we’d always like more, more money, more time, more resources, but the fact of the matter is there’s 14 percent growing that wasn’t there before.

Dan: Right. And just like any business decision, if you feel your performance is 14 percent of those 40 hours and you want to make that better, you got to decide to make an investment, engaged the workforce and make 14 percent 15 then 20, but you don’t have to. I mean, yeah, just like you know, making an investment in sales or, or efficiency, you know, you, these are your choices. So it really creates an environment of truly aligning in a shared responsibility model. The employee, the company, the shareholders and the community.

Josh: So, so what other ways can our business leaders, our listeners anyhow, any business leaders in the community use philanthropy as a strategy. Any other ways besides how you’re using it because they may not either have the capital or know how to, or maybe even people power to create what you created.

Dan: Yeah, well a couple things would be. In the example I gave, yeah, there’s a lot of hours because you have a thousand people in 14 percent of 40 per. I mean, it’s, it’s a substantial number of hours, so they might not want to do that, but the thing is it’s kind of relative to size and you can design the plan to skinny it or make it a thicker. So whether you have six people or 600, you can design that. The other thing that I would suggest from a human capital development standpoint is, um, what we do is we try to encourage people to participate in boards. It’s very good for development. You know, when you’re trying to develop your skills to lead or communicate, it’s actually more tricky when you have a volunteer board because you can’t just direct them because you’re their boss. So you’ve got to get really creative and good about how you articulate your message, how you inspire them.

Dan: And if you think of the different leadership styles, uh, you don’t always want to be coercive and your leadership style or pe setting. You’ve got to find a way to be visionary and, and be persuasive. And Democratic and all these other leadership styles. So what we do is we support if people join a board, because I’m, they’re usually asked to give money. Our organization sets up a budget so that will pay or make a contribution to that nonprofit. So, so now you can take somebody’s making 30, $50,000 a year and get them on a board and they’re going to be more interested and more valued than us. So I get asked all the time, but I got so much talent sitting inside task, let’s get one of these people and they won’t be fighting to show up because they’ve got a schedule that’s too tight.

Dan: So that’s uh, another, a little example. The easiest is just allow people to do payroll deduction giving. That’s the easiest. Just allow them to give through a payroll deduction. Make that easy out of sight, out of mind, and create some little opportunity to volunteer. Maybe it’s a team event. Start small, don’t right away. Jump to, well, I got to keep up with, you know, other companies, you know, a task or an am fam or something like that. Design. It’s small. And then let it evolve in line with what you’re trying to achieve on a social and the business side.

Josh: I couldn’t agree more and I that even on top of that created a small committee in your office is Volunteer Committee or Council or whatever you want to call it. And as you’re saying that evolve, let, let the committee really kind of steer that and you know, you put out the vision and let the ideas flow, allow that creativity to come about and you’ll see some really cool things happen.

Dan: Yeah, I, uh, we have a task and employee philanthropy committee. So it’s the same thing you’re talking about. And it was kind of designed around the idea. Let all the ass come into them and let them wrestle with the tension or the paradox regarding do I give to this entity or that entity. So you kind of have a vision, but then they have to keep crafting it. And that’s great skill development too. So that’s a simple little move to get the human capital development for your business. At the same time, you’re being philanthropic and you’re allowing your brand through the good works of these people that transcend out to the community

Josh: and does the business owner, because I just did this exact thing. It allows you to not have to feel the pressure of saying yes or no to everything and when you can communicate, here’s the vision. So for example, I’ll use ours, um, my vision is for children, so 90 and specifically children’s cancer research. And so we’ve aligned with Alex’s lemonade stand. So our northwestern mutual as a corporate office chose that as the charitable cause that they’re going to align themselves with. So they actually match every dollar that we in the field race. So that doubles our impact. That was a pretty easy decision. Now the other 10 percent is still towards children and that’s some of the work that you and I are doing together with. Ha Ha. Clinton Dix is foundation. They’ll go towards raising the literacy rate here for underprivileged, underprivileged youth here in the Madison area. So, but now when people come to us and say, Hey, will you contribute to this where you consider sponsoring this? We can say, does it align with this vision? If so, we’ll consider it go through the board. If not, I’m sorry. This is where our vision is right now. If that changes, we will let you know. Yeah,

Dan: and positions like you said, so that you don’t always have to say no. Let others wrestle with that tension once in a while. The other thing is you can say yes and say yes but not in my time. I think you’re better served to use susie or Jimmy here who works in our organization because you’ll get their value which is equal to and in some cases better than what I can bring just because I don’t have the skillset they have or I don’t have the time or energy that they might have or even the passion for a particular cause. But it was interesting your example of how you do when you go through how has organization. You ended up right back at the same place, which is regarding children because he’s focused on those younger ages and literacy and that sits nicely right next year. Uh, Alex’s lemonade, which I read about on your website or a, or a blog post that you had out there, I learned about, which is awesome.

Josh: So, uh, but you’re right, I wouldn’t have said Yes to being on the board for Hahaha if it didn’t have to do with coats and previous, my, uh, before we got involved with Alex’s, it was with march of dimes because we had a premium with our first child and even before we were at my parents were involved. So it was really ironic how that worked out is been our daughters born five weeks early. And thank God she was healthy and, and uh, was able to, uh, uh, not require any time in the Nicu in any of that. But it was so ironic at that time or all of their money and time we spent with March of dimes and all of that work I saw in real time, real play happen right in front of me with my wife and daughter. And I was like, it was just amazing. So that’s a little bit of backstory on some of the kids stuff I’ve gotten involved with. But pick, pick your where’s your passion and then, and then go from there.

Dan: Well, um, if I can go back on your high example and then jumped there is, um, I think sometimes people think that, you know, you have to be always just altruistic and only giving. And it’s okay if you had a little fun thing. It’s cool. You can have fun, you know, it’s football or in dead, but you’re still focused on the mission. Just like it’s okay if the business gains from it. It’s not a negative as long as we’re still leaning into the purpose. I think are, um, a foundation. And my wife and I, we went into the kids, we did command from a healthcare. And the reason was, is I felt that I had a certain degree of domain intelligence about healthcare because our business makes health care more affordable. We help people pay for medical expenses through various tax advantageous accounts, you know, the health savings accounts, health reimbursement arrangements, flexible spending accounts, dental reimbursing, you name it.

Dan: So we, um, uh, felt that’s, we should go. The problem with that is it really didn’t stimulate the fire, the passion, because if you shift on that spectrum back to the personal side, we’re going to be more about children. And then we’re more about disadvantaged populations or social justice. And part of that is because, uh, our children who are now 21 and 23 are now active with us, with our family giving. So we brought them in to develop their skills around a board room at the family foundation. But then when you do that, all of a sudden they start opening up your eyes to things that you know, in my little world is a 53 year old. I thought I understood. I don’t. My daughter and my son, mostly my daughter though in this case, understands the impact of these disadvantaged as social justice issues and she’s going deep there, so then I look at it and say she’s bringing us smarts and I’m gone.

Dan: Her passion is there. So we kind of took the family or the personal blended together and came up with this mission driven toward the children in healthcare and toward the, the criminal justice. The other thing is I sit here and go, you know, at 53, I’m on this earth for only so long. If that 21 year old is getting into something and we can back that. Some of the solves here are not short term problem fixes. Yeah. And these are very difficult issues. It might take 20 years. Well, kids can continue to have, they can continue because she’s in it. I don’t know if I can in 20 years. So I don’t know if I’m going to be here.

Josh: How cool is that too soon. And your daughter?

Dan: Uh, I’m a very proud father. Yeah, it is. It is the coolest thing. And, and my son, he just approaches things a little different, but she’s very, I’m a sole base, uh, in, in her thinking and, uh, I think there’s something there because it may be your mother and father, patty and I, but really I got to give it to her and her influencers beyond us that caused her to go there. She’s more of a poster child and we are when it comes to this idea of true philanthropy, which if you go back to your definition at the beginning of the show,

Josh: so that’s really cool. So I’m on the opposite end of the special seven, five, three one, right? I start seeing those attributes in our kids and we try and teach them and raise them the best way you can. And then you get some to your age or your daughter and she’s teaching you stuff and showing you her heart that’s goes to the way you’re raised her. And then her becoming her own woman as well.

Dan: My advice to you and your listeners who do have the younger children because we’re way past that and empty nesters is I’m at those ages, uh, just involve them a little bit and they’ll start to see and you’ll model to them just like I saw what hard work looked like on the farm, but I wasn’t really working hard because I was little and scrawny and they are going to see you and what you do and they’ll model in pattern. The other thing is they are so smart and they are not afraid to just say things. Boom. The way they are, you know, you listen to them. We’re, we’re all guarded because we got to think of all of our relationships in our business and all this. So, you know, we’ve, we’ve got to watch out the kid. Just boom, right there. They’ll, they’ll be really.

Dan: Then you open up your eyes and go, well, that was really simple. She or he saw that better than I did because I got all lost in the minutia. So how, how do you see the world of giving? How is that changing? Well, there’s a lot of things are happening, um, you know, some people say, well giving’s going up when you had dollars are going up, but you got all these mega donors, you know, you’ve got the Zuckerberg or whatever and they get all the press or whatever the problem is. On the flip side is, is individual donors are going down and I think with the millennials there is a need for them to be more engaged. So there’s a shift toward volunteerism because I’m like director or Keith Willingham, he runs the federal government’s combined federal campaign and there was an executive order to track a volunteer time that was pledged by employees.

Dan: And I asked him one time, he, so why is that? And he says, well, when you go into the younger populations and if they volunteer again, if they could see the problem, Dan, they’ll get behind it with their checkbook. So the two correlate. So I think there’s a movement toward, um, volunteerism that’s pretty clear. There is a movement toward more of a donor centric model. You know, if you go back, everything was around the nonprofit, there’s total shift. And the other thing is, um, the idea of having, giving, being part of your benefit package, which is probably why we got further involved because being an employee benefit administrator, we could see it, our domain intelligence allowed us to see it and actually enable it. So a lot of our strategic philanthropy is around helping employers make, giving frictionless, make it easy to come off the payroll, send it off to your nonprofit, which is what we do for the federal government, right down to a two person company.

Dan: So you have this internship program or what is your philosophy around the new interns or program and what do you require from your, in terms of unmotivated required from you? Yeah, so with the internship program a until maybe like two, three years ago, we didn’t have much anything and we didn’t really know what we’re doing. My kids would come into the company and we’d have, you know, take your kid to work day and that kind of stuff. Um, my son just wanted to do construction, which I think is great. And, and his mom, Patty said, that’s good because, uh, Dan, when you grew up on a farm, you kind of knew how to use a hammer so you’re not totally inept, you know, you can do some things. Not that I’m Mr, fix it. But Quinn was able to learn those things. Well, what we did is we saw Quinn go work in an internship program at exact sciences with and he got a chance to hang out with Kevin Conroy and they got a great program.

Dan: So he came back and gave me what they do. And so did Kevin Conroy the CDL. So we modeled after that and started building out a internship program. And now it’s a little more robust. One trick for us is that we’re all over the nation. We only have three to 400 employees here in Madison. The other seven to 800 are across the nations. That’s a little bit of a trick for us with the internship program, but we’ve taken it further. We actually have some internship programs that work with like the white Wca or the urban Lee and we are part of the white web program where we have internships for adults that are trying to develop skills so that they can get to gainful employment. So we once again have taken the internship program for the young people coming out of school and we matched it with an internship program. Again, going after those disadvantaged populations that just don’t have the opportunity to participate with companies like task or to sit next to that very smart, a computer science graduate who’s in the same program, so by Osmosis there’s a sharing. That smart young person is understanding what this person’s world’s like and this person is understanding from that smart, a young person what computer science is really about because they were afforded a formal education around it.

Josh: That’s super cool. Now, another really cool piece of this, don’t you mentioned that there’s some from them thropic intertwined with it as well.

Dan: With the injured, that piece would be, um, uh, the, um, the, the giving element related to the um, uh, the wide web and the urban, that’s a piece because these individuals, they’re being placed because they don’t have a job. Uh, it’s a paid internship, so they’re getting funded and they have compensation, but they’re developing a skill. Then what we do is we’ll hire those individuals. So it Kinda ties to our, um, also inside the company have ties to our, um, uh, we have a living wage to. So what we do is we make sure that nobody in the organization is making less than 15 or 15 and a half dollars as a, as an example. So hopefully, um, I’m in the spirit of what you’re looking for related to the internship errors

Josh: on the internship side, if you have one, if you think about creating one, a intertwining how Dan has with some of his mission work in the philanthropic side of be, I’ve heard w, w, so we have a really big internship nationwide and it’s right in the top 10 consistently. Main reason is they get to do what we do. They get to learn and uh, and do all the things that are normal advisors do, so they’re not just paper and coffee pressures and, and we hear that all the time from these college students as we’re interviewing them, they even ask us what, what am I going to be doing? And these kids are smart and they’re being, they’re being coached to ask these questions. So my short asked there as if you create an internship in your invest in that a, it’s going to be a loss leader.

Josh: It is not going to be profitable. I can tell you that because we run the numbers on it every year. Short term, short term. Exactly. Longterm, uh, some of our most successful advisors, some of our most, uh, actually about 50 percent of our field leadership nationwide has come from our internship program. It’s incredible. So longterm can be a great thing and that’s why northwestern mutual and myself as a whole has continued to invest in it. But by and large, don’t be a paper and they’re just, they’re not there to serve you. They’re there to learn and they could be a longterm asset for you.

Dan: Yeah. Make it meaningful work. Don’t just give them the oddball jobs like you’re talking about, getting coffee. A example of that is sc Johnson, you know, $11,000,000,000 organization. That’s where my son ended up. He went into their internship program the next year over there and what they are able to do and they gave them meaningful work. They were able to see out of 12 of these young people who they wanted so they didn’t. They didn’t have to worry if somebody over here didn’t have a work ethic or just didn’t have that aptitude. I mean you can only ask so many questions in an interview to figure that out. So like to your point, give them meaningful work. Then you’ll be able to see what the aptitude is at work ethic, some of your basic blocking and tackling of hiring. That’s where the real richness as I’m. I’m right with you on that advice.

Josh: That’s great. So another real cool thing that you’ve been leading the charge on. Tell us more about the greater give and the everyday philanthropist act. What benefits to employers and employees, what do they receive?

Dan: Is the US earlier about trends out there? I think one of the dilemmas is with the um, uh, the way our tax structure is working is it doesn’t democratize giving, meaning you’ve got a jumble over the standard deduction hurdle to then get a deduction and you’re well aware of that. And I, I do that too. So I, I work with a northwestern mutual. I put money into a foundation. It could be appreciated. Stocks, I liquidate them in there, so I take advantage of that, but I’m able to because I’m of an affluent, uh, a group, the everyday philanthropist is really about allowing every one of those 135 million people in the workforce. The opportunity to not just take money out of their payroll payroll deducted, allow it to be pretax, give them an incentive to give. Now people will say you shouldn’t have to give an incentive to give.

Dan: Well, if that’s true, then why is, am I getting the incentive over here? So why it’s not fair. It’s not democratized. The other reason for the everyday philanthropists act by doing a payroll deduction, pretax, the company will save Medicare and social security on their matching fica, no different than medical daycare, transportation, all these other benefits that I have an incentive to put forth into my workforce so that I can receive a gain. If you can get that employer to lean, the everyday philanthropists act gives the incentive for the employer to lean in, to do the payroll. We can bring a ton of more people into the giving community because if they’re afforded that opportunity with these through the payroll and if they’re incented and the employers incentive, it’s a shared responsibility model. The employer’s committing, the employee is committing and the federal government is committing by giving us a break there. And if you don’t retire,

Josh: there was a behavioral code. You’re fooling yourself. I mean, there’s a reason you get a deduction to buy a prius or a credit or whatever you want to call it. Uh, the other thing is with the 401k type thing, there’s a reason that works because it’s done right out of your check before you have a chance to spend it. A, it’d be in the financial advising world. We know the vast majority of people do not save enough money for retirement, for education, for any other goals. But furthermore, it’s because they don’t have the discipline and frankly our schools don’t teach them how to run a personal budget or any personal finance for that matter. So unless you take it upon yourself to become an expert or work with an advisor, that’s the reason we’re where we are. But to your point, if it can be deducted from the check, like your insurances, like the four one k contributions, it’s a win win.

Dan: Yeah. So what happened is my wife and I, part of our strategic philanthropy, we decided to create the greater good and the greater give is an organization that focuses on advocacy for this legislation. The bill is called the everyday philanthropists act and I’m pleased to say it was introduced in Congress. That’s actually how so representative bill six, six, one six, and um, it is a, a, a bill that simply allows, just like daycare, medical parking, 401k. It allows an individual to take money out a pretax. So we’ve got bipartisan support. Um, we have republic three Republicans, three Democrats introduced more, are coming on, um, different backgrounds, different geographies. It’s getting traction. We met with um, the irs, I’m minutia. Anne’s office and the administration and the irs said they are in supportive of me. They won’t Kabash it if it can get through the house. There’s a complimentary bill on the Senate side, but all the bills have to be. It isn’t introduced yet. All the bills have to be reintroduced when Congress turns over. So it’s there, but it would probably be really introduced, um, in the next congress, uh, as we go forward. And that’s just the way, if you remember those schoolhouse rock days, you know, I’m just a bill sitting here on capital hill trying to get passed that law that that’s where it’s at right now,

Josh: or younger listeners will have to do.

Dan: Um, so that’s on the state side, right?

Josh: Rolling.

Dan: That’s federal, that’s federal. I misunderstood that. No, that’s across the board, so that would be. It was introduced by Congressman Eric Paulson. I’m out of Minnesota and our local congressman Pocan is behind it. He’s office actually did a lot of the work in their legislative council to design the bill with us, so we actually participated in writing the bill, but I mean if you’re in this space for 30 some years and we just eat up and spit out regs and laws and benefits and all this, it was really easy for us to actually write the legislation because we just modeled after other fringe benefits and if I could. The beauty of it is some people will say, well, you got it as employee benefit, you’re an employee benefit company. Well yeah, we use a domain intelligence to build it, but quite frankly from a philanthropy standpoint, I don’t care how the money gets to the charity.

Dan: If it’s right next to your 401k deduction and the 401k administrator and northwestern mutual moves that money. Great. If payroll company ADP moves them money, great. If the bank moves it and we don’t care, we don’t have to be involved at all, it’s just logical that, uh, this, this idea of giving off the payroll deduction sits next to other employee benefit accounts. And if I could, with that said, it isn’t really an account like money sitting somewhere like an Hsa, it’s just a label of an account because you would require the employer to move that money to the nonprofit in a reasonable period of time, just like you do with your 401k. You can’t sit on it, move that money to the 401k. So it starts working for the employee in this case, move that money to a nonprofit. So it starts working for the community.

Dan: That’s awesome. So do you think at our political environment how polarized we are unaware inspired partisan powers do third, both parties? Yes, I do. I do. I think the trick is going to be whether or not it goes in as a standalone bill or it gets tucked into some kind of reconciliation or whatever. Yeah. A, the score on it has not been done. So people are asking the economic. But the advice of the, um, the Treasury [inaudible] office, the irs and reduce the Max from let’s say five grand on the $2,500 that’ll help in a score. The other thing was really good, as they said, think of like a millennial act, so package, maybe student loan repayment with this and family leave. So you’re reaching that younger population that is needing to address those issues. Their problems are different than our problems and you already have tuition reimbursement, but when you’re getting these ready made smart kids, you’re not sending them to school, they’re already educated.

Dan: Their problem is they’re saddled with debt. So why not allow them to package a program where they could put some money in there, 401k some money and giving, excuse me some money in their student loan repayment because it’s Kinda hard to think about my retirement when I’m saddled with debt. So we see a lot of momentum, but you know, it’s still a crap shoot when you, when you’re trying to get a bill passed and it takes a lot of energy. But if your audience, if you could support us, that would be awesome. You don’t have to write checks, you know, you just get behind us so that we can demonstrate that the community of business owners, nonprofit individuals are asking and demanding this type of legislation,

Josh: so working on our listeners, go to find out more on the greater good

Dan: they can go to the greater, so that’s all one word, the greater and you can sign on in support

Josh: and that’s a great point of view or haven’t been involved in the political process ever. You know your representatives are going to be the ones that are going to vote on this. So giving them a call, we’ll referencing the bill, the bill number you gave. What’s that again?

Dan: That’s hr six, six one six. It’s called the every day philanthropist.

Josh: So that’s what they. That’s where the speaker is highly unlikely. When you call an office, you’re actually going to get your person, senator or Congress or you will get their chief of staff, one of their staff members, and I’ll let you in on a little secret. Having been to DC many of times, the chief of staff in DC is usually the one that knows the most and tells the Senator Congressperson to vote on is there anything about it? It’s impossible for the senator or congressperson to know everything about every bill that’s going on out there. You know, when you start take a step back and you’re like, why aren’t these people that edit didn’t seem like they’re that educated. It’s, it’s impossible. So they have staff people, they get educated or a song, a certain number of things to help educate the lead person to make a decision, yes or no on the vote.

Dan: Yeah. I don’t envy those folks. Not at all. Not at all. So I always ask this

Josh: now, um, what book are you reading right now and why? And it doesn’t have to be related to this topic, but just some. Maybe it’s a leadership or maybe it’s just a fiction for fun book.

Dan: Well, I was introduced on the amy and I’m going blank on her last name right now of um, of um, uh, design concepts in town. Have a book called, uh, communicating the new and it was written by Kim Irwin and um, that was very helpful as you think about an organization like ours is very innovative and I talk about the strategic aspect of innovation, philanthropy and those types of things. What we found because our organization is now going to be introducing a new universal benefit account platform to administer these various accounts. Our issue is not how good it is or whether we got a good idea. What I’m finding is how do you communicate the new, you know, if you go back to like, um, apple with the way we buy music down before that occurred, how would you communicate the new or you know, when a car was introduced?

Dan: So the combustible engine, you know, the, the issue isn’t whether or not you have a good idea anymore. There’s a lot of people have good ideas. You have to be effective on communicating the new. So that’s a, that’s a, a great book. Its subtitle is methods to shape and accelerate innovation because having good idea and you’re trying to push it is different than having a good idea. And people are demanding it if they want to eat it like candy and you found a way to appeal to their emotion and their beliefs, it just takes off. What I found is that’s also a leadership trait too, because if you have an idea in a direction you can use coercive and Bush, but if you can create a better vision or a compelling reason for people to go after something, communicating the new and why it’s beneficial to them, they’ll pull you through that chain.

Josh: Very good. Are sort of. You brought up a apple music now. So my brother texted me this yesterday and said want to feel old? The first ipod came out 17 years ago today.

Dan: Yeah.

Josh: Well I’m sure there’s many things that we can say or make us feel old. But that was just as you were mentioning, the APP was like, Oh my brother Jacob texted me about that. Uh, yesterday. I’m like, that’s crazy. Seventeen years ago. So at that time I was at best buy as a sales manager, but that was my career before this. Trying to stay away from my father.

Dan: Yeah.

Josh: Was in retail when that first came out, so it was just fun.

Dan: Great experience. If I could, I started, uh, in a Holiday Inn boy and his server and then moved to selling insurance before, what Liz, now that best buy experience is a great experience because you figure out quickly how to treat people well and care for them and help them and be servant in your mindset while knowing that I still got to close it to make sure I keep my job and make a decent pace.

Josh: Do some living. Yeah, no, you’re absolutely right. It taught me a ton in being her boss and making some mistakes there versus having to make them here when there was a much more intimate setting. Um, and I don’t envy anyone that’s still does that because black Friday every year, whereas a reminder as to why the heck I don’t do that anymore. So, so that’s good. So last question we’ll get out of here. So you can get on with your day. What is the best way for anyone to our listeners to get in touch with you or your staff? If they’re inspired by any of your messages today?

Dan: Well I would say because they might be interested in things around philanthropy or maybe about our business or an opportunity or maybe want to talk to me and unfortunately I got a great group of people that handles family business, philanthropy, the business, communication, so I would say go to The reason I do that so that people are sure that they get a thoughtful response in a timely manner because as you can imagine, you probably have this to a large volume of communications come in. The other thing is based on what their interests are. I might not be the best one equipped. It might be like that. Senator you mentioned. I need to get the person to my chief of staff in a particular area and they’ll actually get a more meaningful, thoughtful and probably more valued answer than what I can maybe do because I’m flying around and different things.

Josh: And you have a phenomenal staff. I’ve been now you can always tell a lot about a person before I even meet them, getting to know the people they hire and Jennifer’s sitting here with us today. She’s awesome. Been awesome to work with. Thanks for everybody for listening today. Thank you, Dan, for being on the show.

Josh: Thanks for listening to another episode of Inspire People Impact Lives. If you’ve been inspired today, please share this episode with as many people as possible so that together our impact is exponential.


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