By Steve Martin
Russ Stoddard couldn’t tell you exactly where his dedication to giving back to the community comes from, but it’s clear his generosity has impacted countless individuals and organizations.
“It’s hard to put a finger on it,” said Stoddard, founder of Oliver Russell, a Boise-based marketing, brand strategy and design firm. “But I know that I received an awful lot of help from people growing up and have always been committed to helping others because of it.”
Born in Missoula, Mont., and adopted by parents from Challis and Salmon, Stoddard grew up primarily in Portland and the Puget Sound area, returning to Idaho in 1980 as a river guide on the Middle Fork of the Salmon River.
Oliver Russell’s recognition this year as the Association of Fundraising Professional’s Idaho Outstanding Media/Marketing agency is a direct result of Stoddard’s long history of aiding others. He carried that philosophy into his business, formed in 1991, most notably with Oliver Russell’s O-pen Purse defined giving program.
The company donates 10 percent of its net income or 1 percent of its revenue, whichever is larger, in grants or volunteer time to charitable causes annually. Since the company’s launch, Oliver Russell has contributed more than $1.5 million in cash and services to organizations that bring positive change to the community, notably in the areas of conservation, human rights and youth programs.
Stoddard’s proudest achievements to date are helping to establish Hulls Gulch Nature Preserve in north Boise and the creation of the Idaho Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial near Boise State University and Julia Davis Park.
O-pen Purse recipients for 2010-2011 include Boise Urban Garden School, Good Samaritan Home, Boise Contemporary Theater, American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA) Boise chapter, and United Way.
“Oliver Russell helped maximize our resources and effectiveness by ensuring our tools are accessible to as many people as possible. They helped ensure our brand is clear and strong and our website is user-friendly,” said Rachel Winer executive director for Idaho Smart Growth, a 2009 O-pen Purse grant recipient.
“We worked with a variety of team members at Oliver Russell during the course of this project and every person was professional, enthusiastic, patient, and committed to helping our organization,” Winer said.
“Oliver Russell is a perfect example of how business can partner with the philanthropic community in building a healthy, sustainable society,” said Kim Peel, former camp development director for the Treasure Valley YMCA.
Peel said Oliver Russell has helped aid several projects for the Y through the O-pen Purse program, including ongoing support for Ride Idaho, a weeklong cycling event that attracts riders from throughout the U.S. The firm has also donated services to the Y to redesign its publications to present a professional and consistent look to the community. Stoddard led a committee of volunteers, Peel added, on a marketing push for the grand opening of the YMCA Camp in Valley County.
“With incredible support from the Oliver Russell team and top-notch volunteers, the Y experienced the best grand opening in its 119-year history,” she said, “and we have registered over 1,000 campers for our inaugural summer, exceeding our first-year operational goal.”
O-pen Purse evolved from Stoddard’s wish for work to have more meaning than simply profit, and a simple desire to benefit the community.
“O-pen Purse is a tangible expression of our values: to be creative, collaborative, progressive and socially responsible,” he said. “We created the grant application process as a way to help us identify worthy efforts that could best benefit from our resources – and as a way to track our contribution to the community. This next year we are piloting a program to have our people actually go out in the community and volunteer for nonprofits of their choosing, starting with training to figure out how to best do this and supported with paid time off to then do it.”
Steve Martin is the special sections editor for the Idaho Business Review in Boise.