A Q+A with Lifelong Investment Manager and Foundation Fundholder Rodney Buck
Rodney Buck (right) pictured with three generations of Bucks on the family farm.
On paper, Rodney Buck may seem like any other seasoned investment manager: his entire career has been spent managing large institutional investment portfolios; he is the Chairman of Dartmouth/Hitchcock Healthcare’s Investment Committee, as well as a New York-based mutual fund; and he owns his own private family office and wealth management firm.
But, “Rod sees things in different ways than most folks,” explains Martha Trombley Oakes, senior philanthropic advisor at the Vermont Community Foundation (VCF). “The experiences and connections he’s made throughout his career lend a different layer of analysis, creating a unique perspective of our impact.”
This unique perspective recently peaked our curiosity. Fortunately, Rod was willing to sit down and chat with us about how his career has influenced how he manages his own investments, and how he guides the Foundation on its investment strategy.
What is your relationship with the Community Foundation?
I’ve been working with VCF since 2005, primarily as a member of the Investment Committee, where our focus is on building the best possible investment portfolio and program for the Foundation.
And what does that look like in action?
The Committee meets officially every quarter to review investment performance, consider asset allocation, and help Dan (Smith, President and CEO of the Vermont Community Foundation) make decisions on investment managers and strategies.
I know you also recently began working with the Community Foundation on your charitable giving. What were you doing before?
We’ve been giving to more than 30 nonprofits for decades—most based in Vermont—including human services, educational organizations, literacy groups, the arts. In 2005, I established a small family office so I could manage my family investments, those of my children, parents, others, I make all the investment decisions.
So, what prompted the switch?
I would view our donor advised fund (DAF) at the Community Foundation as an addition to how we manage our giving, as opposed to a complete replacement. My wife and I have been talking about this for years—we have two kids who both grew up in Vermont, we really love Vermont, and so the focus of our giving has become more and more focused on Vermont.
For example, when our town of Calais started to raise money for historic preservation projects in town, we were deeply involved. This included restoring historic buildings, like the well-known Old West Church, as well as two general stores. Amazingly enough, the town has been able to restore all these buildings.
You mention you’ve been talking about opening a donor-advised fund at the Community Foundation for years. What changed your mind?
Because of my background and experience in investment management, I’m very aware of different fees at various institutions, including commercial DAFs that tend to be lower—so I had to really think hard about VCF’s fees.
Then, a lightbulb came on. I don’t know if it was before talking to Martha or during, but it became clear to me that the fees support the great work on the ground that the Community Foundation does in towns and with nonprofits all around the state—from supporting broadband expansion in the Northeast Kingdom to funding community-based organizations to increase access to mental health and suicide prevention care services for more Vermonters. You can’t get this kind of on the ground work with commercial donor advised funds.
For those contemplating a DAF at the Community Foundation, the second thing that’s important to consider are the great investment options that are offered. This includes a well thought-out, socially responsible investment pool, a long-term pool that includes alternative investments in venture capital, private equity, and private real estate funds. These kinds of investments are not available with large commercial DAFs and there is considerable evidence that these investments can boost longer term investment returns as well as improve portfolio diversification.
Anything you want to emphasize to anyone reading this?
Consider all of the boots-on-the-ground work that the Community Foundation supports across every county and region in Vermont, spanning youth engagement, childcare, college and career training, arts and culture, crisis response and recovery—keep in mind that the fees support that.
If your charitable giving is focused on Vermont, there’s no better place to be.
Whether you are an individual, a family, a foundation, or business, we offer customized guidance and support, back-office services, and world-class investments across a spectrum of charitable giving—whether that’s opening a donor advised fund, creating an annual giving plan, or designing your giving with a bigger vision. We would love to learn more about your charitable goals and interests. Together we can do more.
To be connected with a philanthropic advisor today, please reach out to Jane Kimble at 802-388-3355 ext. 286, firstname.lastname@example.org.