Gena Rotstein is a professional do-gooder, having spent the past 15 years working, volunteering and fundraising for various non-profit groups and charities, both nationally and internationally.
After earning her Master of Arts in non-profit management and Jewish Communal Service by the age of 24 from Brandeis University in Boston, Rotstein worked in the non-profit sector throughout Canada and the United States, and eventually saw an opportunity to help solve one of the problems she identified in her industry — namely, that people often donate money to a charity without looking into its track record.
“I realized that many charities were not empowering their donors,” Rotstein says. “So instead of continuing to represent just the charities’ interests, I also became an advocate for the donors.”
In 2008, Rotstein launched Calgary-based Dexterity Consulting, which acts as a matchmaker to help donors pick charities. Much more than just telling people what to do with their money, Dexterity approaches philanthropy the same way a personal banking professional approaches wealth management — by aligning a client’s social values with the philanthropic goals of a non-profit, and making sure that organization has the performance record to get the job done. That means Dexterity assesses each of the charities it works with rigorously along to a large number of criteria, including community impacts and competitors, sustainability, governance and finance.
So far, that approach has seen Dexterity Consulting flourish. “In the last year and a half, over half a million dollars was funnelled into the local, national and international non-profit and charitable sector through Dexterity Consulting-related activities,” Rotstein says.
While she may be civic-minded, Rotstein is also an astute businesswoman who knows how to save a buck. In fact, while looking for office space in downtown Calgary in 2007, she found a way to decrease her rent and at the same time give local artists more exposure.
“I have an art gallery in Art Central where I have my office and I rent out the wall space to local artists,” she says. This supports the art community through the creation of a commission-free gallery, she adds.
Outside of work, Rotstein sits on the board of directors with Christmas Future, a local non-profit that offers electronic gift cards that can used to support various charities. She also just ended a stint in August with Global Television Woman of Vision; she sat on the monthly TV program’s advisory board and helped select women to be featured.
Rotstein says she views both her job and volunteering as necessary. “I fundamentally believe in karma,” she says. “We need to be engaged in the community on many different levels.”
Why she’s the top: She has made a business out of advising deep-pocketed philanthropists on how to better pick the charities they donate to.
The key to her success: “I think the reason I have been successful is because I believe in community,” says Rotstein. “That’s what karma’s all about — whatever you put forward will come back tenfold.”