Philantrophy Day award winners

The National Philanthropy Day Award Winners were recognized at a Nov. 15 luncheon at DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Tulsa Downtown. Pictured are Steffanie Bonner, Outstanding Fundraising Professional; Robin Ballenger, Outstanding Fundraising for Diversity and Inclusion; Bill Major, executive director of Zarrow Family Foundations, Pillar Award; Jill Thomas, Outstanding Volunteer Fundraiser; Burt Holmes, Outstanding Philanthropist; Becky Frank, Community Impact Award; and Monica Champ, Association of Fundraising Professionals Eastern Oklahoma Chapter president.

The Eastern Oklahoma Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals sponsors the National Philanthropy Day Conference and Awards Luncheon to recognize the importance of philanthropy in the community. Every year, the organization tries to shine a spotlight on those helping improve the community.

“By recognizing some of the amazing philanthropic efforts of both individuals and organizations, we hope to inspire others,” says Ashli Sims, 2019 National Philanthropy Day chairwoman. “Philanthropy is contagious: the more good you do; the more you want to do; and even more people want to join you.

“I believe the more you see examples of philanthropy in our community, the more you want to participate in those activities or start one of your own.”

Robin Ballenger

Outstanding Fundraising for Diversity and Inclusion

As president of the Flint Family Foundation and as an individual donor,

Ballenger says she has the privilege of helping nonprofits from both directions. She has served on several boards, which helped her learn about the nonprofit world from the inside out.

“I have huge admiration for all the good people in Tulsa who are employed by nonprofits and who work so tirelessly for them,” she says. “This is work that requires dedication and vast reserves of energy and commitment. I salute those who dedicate their lives to our nonprofits.”

Ballenger is especially grateful for those at Tulsa Community College who nominated her for the honor.

Through the Flint Foundation, Ballenger funds a variety of organizations, but she says she is most passionate about nonprofits that focus on establishing equity and diversity throughout Tulsa.

“It seems to me that without a rigorous commitment to equality, Tulsa will not be an energized and thriving home for us all,” she says. “Tulsa is a diverse city now, and we are so much the better for having many voices and points of view to contribute to our vision for tomorrow. We cannot afford to ignore a single one of these voices.”

Steffanie Bonner

Outstanding Professional Fundraiser

Bonner says her true passion is giving back to her community. “Working in fundraising is the vehicle to match that passion,” says vice president of resource development with the Tulsa Regional Chamber.

Bonner has been directly involved in nonprofit fundraising for the past 20 years, including working with nonprofits that aid elderly individuals, children’s programs and now, through her Chamber work, the greater Tulsa community and region.

“This award is about more than just raising money,” she says. “It’s about a dedication

to my profession and my fellow fundraisers. Working in a philanthropic field is about people giving what they can to help one another.”

For Bonner, philanthropy and nonprofit fundraising are about serving and giving back to her neighbors, she says, adding: “It’s about making a difference for the betterment of my community.”

Considering herself a generalist, Bonner excels in annual giving, capital campaigns, major gifts and planned giving. 

“My strength, as well as my greatest pleasure, is when I can match a community need with a donor,” she says. “It’s a win-win situation when a donor’s needs are met and the community is improved.”

Becky Frank

Community Impact Award

Having worked at the Tulsa Area United Way from 1986-1994, Frank says she feels a great connection to the local nonprofit community.

Over the years, she has volunteered for a number of charitable organizations, and currently serves on the boards of Tulsa Community Foundation, the Tulsa Foundation, Oklahoma Arts Council and Tulsa Regional Chamber.

“I’m particularly attracted to the fundraising aspect of working with nonprofits and the donor development process,” she says. “It’s exciting to introduce donors to nonprofits whose missions align with the donor’s interests and to witness how they help and support each other; finding that perfect match.”

Frank is humbled by the recognition. “Receiving the Community Impact Award is meaningful to me and, more than anything, is a reminder to me to on a daily basis to be intentional, purposeful and bold in serving others,” she says.

“We are fortunate to live and work in a community that has such a wonderful spirit of giving and taking care of our own,” Frank adds. “When we have the good fortune to live, work and play in a community like Tulsa, we also have a responsibility to give back.”

Burt Holmes

Outstanding Philanthropist

Although honored to be named Tulsa’s Outstanding Philanthropist by the AFP, Holmes is quick to say, “I’ve never thought of myself as a philanthropist. The word doesn’t apply to me.”

The reality is starkly different.

Holmes, the entrepreneurial co-founder of QuikTrip Corp. and founder of Burt P. Holmes and Associates, which later became The Holmes Organisation, a general insurance brokerage, has devoted significant proceeds from those two business successes to provide financial support to, as he puts it, “things that interest me.” Among those “things” have been generous gifts of money and leadership to the University of Tulsa, his alma mater; Gilcrease Museum; the Tulsa Botanic Garden; and, of late, the Reed Community Foundation in north Tulsa.

“My friend Pat Woodrum introduced me to the idea of a Tulsa Botanic Garden,” Holmes remembers. “She emphasized Tulsa was the only city of its size without a botanic garden. I liked the idea because a botanic garden has an educational component to it.”

Holmes says he made an early donation to the Garden, but the project truly came to life for him “when Gentner Drummond donated 170 acres of his Osage County land for it.” Holmes became a significant fundraiser and donor for what he now believes “is a wonderful place and a major asset for Tulsa.”

Holmes’ current giving interest is helping support Keith Reed’s efforts to create a robust after-school program in north Tulsa for the children of single mothers. 

“Keith is a social worker at heart and, through his Reed Community Foundation, the after-school program he has started is impacting up to 90 kids each day,” Holmes says. “I’m happy to be providing some needed support and structure to strengthen the Foundation’s program and make it sustainable.”

Jill Thomas

Outstanding Volunteer Fundraiser

Thomas has been involved in the Tulsa nonprofit world for more than three decades.

She started volunteering with the Tulsa Area United Way as a member of the committee that annually reviewed agency requests for funding. This led her to be introduced to many nonprofits in the Tulsa area in which she has become involved: Family and Children’s Services, Tulsa Town Hall and the Alzheimer’s Association with her husband, Bob Thomas.

“I appreciate receiving this recognition,” she says. “I have been inspired to be engaged in making a difference in our community from the actions of so many in my lifetime including my parents, Ann and Fred Nelson; my husband, Bob; and many others within our community.”

The Thomases have advocated for the Alzheimer’s Association for more than 20 years. Jill also counsels other agencies, including the Mental Health Association Oklahoma and A New Leaf, which benefits people with developmental disabilities.

“I am particularly passionate about working on causes which benefit individuals who for whatever reason, are unable to advocate for themselves,” she says.

MacKenzie Toliver

Outstanding Youth in Philanthropy

Toliver might be the youngest among the nonprofit winners, but her resumé is no less outstanding. Since her freshman year of high school, Toliver has devoted nearly 600 hours to Tulsa’s nonprofit community.

In the past three years, and now a freshman at Vanderbilt University, she has served on the Junior Board of Emergency Infant Services as treasurer, vice president and president.

The mission of EIS is to provide basic needs for children 5 and under. The Junior Board consists of high-achieving high school students from across the Tulsa metro area. As a board, it hosts Babypalooza, which is an annual local fundraiser, and fundraises throughout the year in various other innovative ways.

“We met our goal of $30,000 my first year, surpassed the $40,000 goal in my second year by $10,000, and now as president, I plan to set and exceed even higher goals in 2019,” she says.

Toliver also has participated in the Youth Philanthropy Initiative, a local youth development program that teaches leadership, philanthropy and self-awareness through the creation of a social entrepreneurship project.

“This feels as though someone has tapped me on the shoulder and said: ‘We see you. We see the work that you’re doing. We appreciate you,’” she says. “It is honestly one of the greatest feelings in the world.”

Zarrow Family Foundations

Pillar Award

From helping the homeless to the mentally ill to Tulsa’s youngest residents, the three Zarrow Family Foundations — Zarrow Families Foundation, the Anne and Henry Zarrow Foundation and the Maxine and Jack Zarrow Foundation — have been synonymous with giving for years. All are headquartered and managed by the family office.

Each reflects the Zarrow family’s devotion to the Jewish ideal of tzedakah, or righteous giving, focused primarily on Tulsa, the state of Oklahoma and Israel.

The Anne and Henry Zarrow Foundation funds nonprofits working to improve the physical and intellectual lives of disadvantaged and vulnerable people through alleviating and preventing homelessness, reducing hunger in Oklahoma, improving indigent health care and funding broad operating support for Tulsa’s social service providers.

The Maxine and Jack Zarrow Family Foundation, meanwhile, supports individuals and families facing mental illness and physical or medical challenges, and focuses on eradicating homelessness.

The foundations fund the Zarrow Mental Health Symposium hosted by the Mental Health Association Oklahoma, as well as a decades-long commitment to Gilcrease Museum. The Mental Health Symposium was inspired by Maxine and Jack Zarrow’s daughter, Kathy, who struggled with mental health herself.

“We want to thank the Association of Fundraising Professionals for honoring the Zarrow Family Foundations with the Pillar Award,” says Bill Major, executive director of the Zarrow Family Foundations. “What those of us on the giving side of philanthropy know is that if there were not high performing nonprofits out there doing the work every day, funders would not be able to make a meaningful investment in the critical services needed in our community.” 

If you’re interested in nominating someone for a 2020 National Philanthropy Day Award, email NPD Chairwoman Shelley Holmes at

Kristi Eaton is a freelance journalist and communications consultant who has a love for storytelling.

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