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Business Observer Friday, Dec. 19, 2014 3 years ago

Lend an ear

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Geoffrey Frazier has spent a decade on the board of one nonprofit organization. His passion is personal, with a pro-business approach.
by: Mark Gordon Managing Editor

Executive: Geoffrey Frazier, president, Global Financial Private Capital

Organization: Ear Research Foundation, Sarasota

Giveback: Frazier has been on the board since 2004 and has been chairman since 2012.

Mission: Foundation focuses on research and development; outreach and education of ear health and hearing issues; and treatment through a free and sliding scale clinic to help low-income children and individuals.

Joe “Gramps” Price, a 1940s college football and basketball star, lived with hearing loss for decades, remnants of an old injury.

Then Price's grandson, Sarasota financial services executive Geoffrey Frazier, mentioned the Ear Research Foundation. The nonprofit, founded in 1979 by prominent Sarasota physician Dr. Herbert Silverstein, studies ear conditions, from ringing in the ears to cochlear implants to balance disorders. The organization also operates a large outreach education unit for hearing loss and underwrites some procedures for people with health insurance that doesn't cover the work.

Silverstein's team met with Price and performed a procedure in 2001 that returned 50% of his hearing. That was an eye-opening moment for Frazier, president of Sarasota-based Global Financial Private Capital, an SEC-registered investment adviser with more than 100 employees and $3 billion in assets under management. Seeing Price no longer cup a hand to his ear and say “what?” blew Frazier away.
Frazier, 47, has since become one of the Ear Research Foundation's biggest advocates. He joined the board in 2004 and was named president in 2012. “I know it's a cliche, but it's all about awareness,” Frazier says. “People just don't realize how big this problem is and what we can all do to help. That's why what we do is so important.”

Frazier is personally active in a few other charitable organizations, including a committee for a cancer research group connected to basketball announcer and east Manatee County resident Dick Vitale. Global Financial, he says, donates money and time to at least 40 groups.

But Frazier has never spent a decade with an organization, or been named chairman. He donates $6,000 to $10,000 a year of his own money to the Ear Research Foundation, mostly in a challenge-type grant to encourage more giving. He also spends about 15-20 hours a month working on something for the organization, including a good amount of emails and calls with Ear Research Foundation Executive Director Jennifer Moss. Says Frazier: “I'm not sure a week goes by where we don't communicate about something.”

Frazier is part of a 10-member board with a large amount of business experience. Others include Sarasota businessman and real estate developer Charles Githler; Sarasota entrepreneur Eileen Hampshire, owner of Art To Walk On; product development and branding executive Edward Ogiba; Sarasota CPA Raymond Suplee; and retired Coca-Cola executive Robert Tufts. “This board offers a great deal of leadership,” says Moss.

One current board focus is to push the organization beyond the Silverstein name it's most commonly connected to, so it can stand on its own. That challenge, building an organization that thrives independently of its founder, is something many nonprofits face.

“We talk a lot about positioning and brand awareness,” Frazier says. “I've seen us come more toward an entity that has its own brand and its own life.”

Frazier's biggest challenge with his Ear Research Foundation role is to find the balance with that work and Global Financial. The firm, which he co-founded in 1991, has grown its payroll 300% in the past four years, and will move into a new 28,000-square-foot office early next year. But Frazier says the foundation's continued success is a high priority.

“I think I've helped a bit with structure and organization,” says Frazier. “I brought the business-y stuff to the foundation.”

Follow Mark Gordon on Twitter @markigordon

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