Rodney Christopher ’86
Senior Consultant in the Nonprofit Sector
Rodney Christopher has more than 20 years of experience bringing nonprofit organizations and funders together to ensure that financial investments have a long-term and meaningful impact.
Years prior to joining FMA, Rodney partnered with its principal, Stuart Cohen, on an initiative to build capacity among workforce development nonprofits—that initiative is now recognized as a national model. Stuart called Rodney “a smart, direct communicator … a true, and fun, professional that makes collaborative work easy and fruitful.”
Rodney developed his consulting skills at Nonprofit Finance Fund where, over the course of 15 years, he advised more than 400 nonprofits and 80 grantmaking foundations in arts and culture, human services, education, and community development. He has provided valuable insider knowledge on nonprofit work in published articles and through public speaking engagements.
As a director on the capital markets team at The Heron Foundation, he strengthened the foundation’s grantmaking practice for nonprofits. Rodney had “the incredible experience” of participating with colleagues to invest 100 percent of the foundation’s endowment, so that it not only achieved a financial return, but also achieved social good, positioning the foundation at the forefront of impact investing.
“What I appreciate the most, looking back at all I’ve done, is the people I have mentored.”
Rodney has served on several nonprofit boards and committees, and is an advisory council member for GuideStar, an organization committed to advancing transparency within nonprofit organizations through one of the most respected databases of information about nonprofits.
Before Rodney was fully invested in nonprofit work, he pursued a desire to work in television production. He was a story coordinator on All My Children—his first paper at Simon’s Rock was about his love of daytime soap operas—and then he joined the fast-paced environment of Saturday Night Live as a script production assistant. When he returned to the nonprofit sector, Rodney realized: “I was really good at this work.”
“I came from very humble beginnings,” so when the financial aid package came from Simon’s Rock, “I didn’t even think twice about coming here.” But his mom was nervous about sending her son here. Years later, Rodney’s mom told him: “when I saw how you looked on the campus, I knew that I couldn’t say no.”
Rodney took accelerated Spanish as a first-year student. “I loved the language and the faculty member at the time.” That faculty member encouraged him to study Spanish in Mexico for three weeks, but because Rodney could not afford to go, he graciously declined. When an unexpected and generous offer was made that would allow him to study in Mexico, he gratefully accepted it. That opportunity was “a life-changing experience.”
Years later, Rodney was invited to attend a Board of Overseers meeting. Members were considering a faculty proposal that would require students who would be moderating to study abroad or away. “One of the things about Simon’s Rock that I will always cherish was that it's a place that taught me it's OK to say what I think.” Rodney raised his hand and shared his story about Mexico.
Board Chair Emily H. Fisher was so inspired by Rodney’s story that she endowed a new scholarship in his name that would allow more students to have an opportunity to study abroad or away. She told him: “Simon’s Rock is the kind of place that recognizes people while they’re living and I for one want to recognize you while you’re living.” For Rodney, “The most humbling and incredible experience of my life is having a scholarship named after me.”
Rodney served on the Simon’s Rock Board of Overseers from 2015 to 2020 and served as head of the Alumni Leadership Council.
“This is a place where I think everyone who is here wants everyone else to succeed, and I’m not sure that’s true anywhere else on the planet.”
Simon’s Rock is college now for motivated younger students ready to realize their intellectual and creative potential.