In every life story, there is a defining moment, an event that forms character, shapes values and establishes the purpose by which one lives.
For RBC Wealth Management financial advisor, Neil McDevitt
of Seattle, WA, that defining moment was the deadly AIDS epidemic of the 1980s.
“When I was in my early 20s, my partner of 31 years and now husband, Richard, and I were going to a funeral at least once a month. We lost so many friends – so many amazing, talented people were taken away from us,” McDevitt says. “I have to make up for what we lost.”
And that life purpose is service. For more than 20 years, McDevitt has felt a strong compulsion to donate countless hours annually to causes serving the LGBTQ community.
“Sometimes I feel like I do not do enough,” he quickly adds.
What may sometimes not feel like enough to McDevitt is actually quite a lot when you break it down.
Serving the community
One of the organizations that has benefited from McDevitt’s personal and professional attention is the Greater Seattle Business Association (GSBA). Through his efforts serving on the board and as a consultant – and McDevitt credits the work of other committed volunteers like him – the GSBA has grown to the largest LGBT and allied chamber of commerce in North America.
“I thought it would be a great way to be an ‘out’ financial advisor, and be of service to LGBTQ people and businesses,” McDevitt says.
GBSA is known nationally for its effectiveness in marketing and providing business development for small business, connecting the community through business, advocating for civil rights and business, promoting LGBT travel and investing in the next generation of leaders. Indeed, one of the programs of the GSBA that McDevitt is most passionate about is its scholarship fund.
The scholarship fund provides financial resources and role modeling to outstanding LGBTQ and allied students, many of whom have no traditional means of support. Over time, it has given more than $3 million to eligible students and this year alone has provided $400,000 in scholarships.
McDevitt is considered a major fundraiser for the fund. It had no endowment when he became involved with it. And true to his humble nature, he gives credit to many others he has recruited to the cause over the years who also contributed to its success. Perhaps others have found inspiration in his enthusiasm for the subject, and this fact should not be overlooked.
“Some people have accused me of being Tom Sawyer, you know, getting others to do your work for you” McDevitt says with a laugh.
Louise Chernin, chief executive officer of GSBA says McDevitt’s passion, leadership abilities and commitment to equality help ensure both the chamber and scholarship fund are strong and sustainable.
“Neil cares about people and relationships,” Chernin says. “He is always ready to listen, bring people together and find ways to constructively address challenges. Neil is one of the most positive people I know and his leadership style is one that is inclusive and respectful.”
Another LGBTQ organization that benefits from a significant investment of McDevitt’s time and talent is the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC). He has long been a member of its corporate advisory board and he is responsible for RBC Wealth Management’s sponsorship of this national coordinator of resources and programs to help promote pro-business and pro-LGBTQ policies.
The NGLCC is currently focused on setting LGBTQ supplier diversity certification standards and McDevitt is playing a key role in lobbying the governments of both Seattle and King County, WA to adopt procedures for doing business with of certified LGBTQ suppliers.
“Neil sees how the LGBTQ community and the business community can work together to achieve their goals – and he has advocated for their interests at the local, regional and national level for many years,” says David Moskovitz, Seattle complex director at RBC Wealth Management-U.S. “He truly cares about helping people. It shows in his service, as both financial advisor and volunteer. His example inspires me to do my best and I am honored to work with him.”
Other worthy causes that McDevitt contributes to include the Lifelong AIDS Alliance, Habitat for Humanity and the Houlahan Foundation, which empowers people with developmental disabilities to live fulfilled lives. He is a founding member of the foundation, because of his interest in calling attention to the needs of a group of people who have historically been overlooked in terms of inclusion and human rights.
“As a young gay man, I felt like I did not have a voice,” McDevitt says. “So I have always tried to speak up for people who are voiceless.”
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