A.J. Rounds

Here’s the evolution of a nonprofit concept into a major undertaking through management techniques and marketing campaigns.

Google. Tesla. Amazon. Under Armour. What do these companies do that makes them so awesome? Their management, business models, and attention to customer appeal all make a critical difference to their success. They embody the same philosophies we, as nonprofits, should be upholding as well.

For the Responsibility Foundation, this was not always the case. In the 1990s, our mission found its beginnings when Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl, the author of Man’s Search for Meaning, met with Dr. James Newman, Dr. Stephen R. Covey and several other individuals, to discuss a seemingly impossible dream: Frankl’s vision of supplementing the Statue of Liberty on the U.S. East Coast with a Statue of Responsibility on the West Coast.

In 1997, sculptor Gary Lee Price was commissioned to create the design. In 2004, he and an entourage travelled to Vienna, Austria, to show the prototype, which depicted two clasped hands, to Frankl’s widow, Elly. She could not contain her emotion as she showed the group a wood carving Frankl had obtained shortly after his release from the concentration camps in Germany, which held great meaning for him. It was a carving of a kneeling man reaching upwards to Heaven. Frankl had often used the carving as a symbol of responsibility, as he wondered, “Where is the hand reaching back?” And Price had taken a sculpture to Elly that answered that question.


The Mission Began

The team behind the Statue of Responsibility has increased its momentum in many ways in the years that have passed since that magnificent day. This is more than a monument…it’s a MOVEMENT! We repeat this slogan many times each day.

For the individuals behind the Statue of Responsibility, this mission has become a way of life. But our fervent commitment was far from enough to bring this goal to life. We needed to create a great organization, like the strongest commercial companies have done, in order to accomplish our ultimate goal: within the next ten years we intend to construct a 300-foot structure, The Statue of Responsibility, on the U.S. West Coast to stand as a beacon of hope for generations to come.

The Responsibility Foundation was Created

The Responsibility Foundation has become the organization that leads this movement. The team has a governing board of 17 (a Who’s Who team led by Dr. Nancy D. O’Reilly, a renowned philanthropist and a trailblazer for women’s empowerment). However, the team needed to do something big and immediate to surmount the giant gap between their admirable mission and the seemingly insurmountable goal of bringing the Statue to life.

What Now? The Critical Steps

A dedicated headquarters and staff. In 2016, the Foundation moved to a dedicated headquarters in Mapleton, Utah. The team is led by CEO/President and Director Derrin Hill. Prior to taking the helm of the Responsibility Foundation in January 2016, Hill served as Chief Sales Officer for one of the most successful online education companies in the world, Imagine Learning.


A New Level of Management Focus.

Derrin Hill realized the best way to run the Foundation was to mimic a commercial startup. He had led many successful ventures, and had tremendous success at launching a company in the education software industry, with Imagine Learning eventually bringing in more than 50 percent of the funds spent on educational technologies for English language and literacy learners, and he used that experience for the Responsibility Foundation.

Hill has brought significant energy to the Foundation with his principles of lean management, mobile technology, open office spaces, and maintaining a flat organization. Some of these principles are manifested in the following ways:

  1. Money mornings (everyone focuses on fundraising efforts each day).
  2. Startup mentality.
  3. Treating the nonprofit like a for-profit company.
  4. A high degree of transparency in all the organization does.
  5. A ridiculous amount of communication within the organization, to the board, and to the public.
  6. Appeals to the emotional side of the organization’s donors.
  7. Boldness in asking contributors for funds.

Hill chose his Executive Team with extreme care. The current Executive Team is highly skilled, professionally diverse, fast paced, familiar with startup ventures, flexible in work schedules, and cross-trainer in many functions. This allows the team to work efficiently and quickly. Hill sets the vision and goals, fires the starting pistol, and then allows the team to conquer the world in any way needed. Micromanagement will never find a place at the Responsibility Foundation.

An Aggressive Media Outreach Campaign.

Part of the Responsibility Foundation’s national campaign includes a Kids Vote­A­Thon (a mock Presidential election program which teaches kids about our constitutional rights and privileges, and allows them to choose their favorite candidate). The organization is partnering with PTA organizations and school associations across the country to instill in our nation’s young children the importance of responsibility in civic awareness and involvement. This will allow them to learn and understand the issues facing our nation during this critical election season.

The media outreach will include many other initiatives involving print, mass media, broadcasting, social media, word of mouth, merchandise, presentations, and celebrity/political/athletic endorsements.

New Age Marketing Campaigns.

Some of the latest marketing methods the Foundation uses include social media, video, high-tech partners, video books, reality TV, and fitness activities like mini marathons. The team is in the process of revamping its website to employ functionality that allows them to add content on a daily basis. For example, the group will soon begin a campaign called Faces of Responsibility. This initiative will allow users to generate videos that will appear on the Foundation’s website. Viewers will vote each week on which face or voice best represents responsibility. Winners will move on to higher levels of voting. We have found that this interaction is especially key for Millennials.

Think Big, But Communicate in Ways that are Simple.

There is something to be said about thinking big. But there is also tremendous importance in simplification of messages. Breaking down information into Twitter-sized pieces of information is critical for many segments of the Foundation’s increasingly diverse audience.

How is It Going?

The Foundation has gained tremendous momentum since hiring Derrin Hill and his newly-created Executive Team. All is on track, and they invite all who may be interested to join their movement at any level as a meaningful way to preserve our freedom through the ages. For more information, you can join or follow the Statue of Responsibility adventure at www.ResponsibilityFoundation.org, or check them out via #RFoundation2016.


Working alongside his father from the age of six, A.J. Rounds became versed in commercial real estate, business acquisitions, insurance, and property management. He has been involved in a variety of industries from infomercials to online grocery. It’s been a wild ride, but A.J. is most excited about his role in marketing and communications while promoting the greatest cause in the country: responsibility.


This article is reprinted from Vol. 3, No. 2, of Nonprofit Performance Magazine. Subscribe today!
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