Rolf Nelson of Santa Rosa’s Exchange Bank and Chop’s Teen Club wins Nonprofit Leadership Award

Rolf Nelson, senior vice president and retail delivery group manager, Exchange Bank (EXCHANGE BANK) Oct. 20, 2005


Rolf Nelson of Santa Rosa’s Exchange Bank and Chop’s Teen Club has won one of North Bay Business Journal’s Nonprofit Leadership Awards.

Describe your organization

Since 1890, Exchange Bank has been serving the local community, not only through trusted banking and financial services, but also through charitable giving. Exchange Bank differs from national and regional banks by investing 100% of its charitable giving in the communities it serves in Sonoma County and Roseville (Placer County). In addition, 50.44% of the Bank’s cash dividends go to the Doyle Trust which funds the Doyle Scholarship at Santa Rosa Junior College. Since 1948, the Doyle Scholarship Fund has provided $83 million to over 127,000 students.

“Giving back to the community is part of our legacy — it’s our mission and a part of Exchange Bank’s culture,” said Gary Hartwick, President and CEO. “Our employees demonstrate their commitment to the community through thousands of volunteer hours each year.”

For the past 23 years, the Volunteer Center of Sonoma County has named Exchange Bank the corporate fundraising champion for the Human Race. Exchange Bank provides employees paid time off to participate in a long list of community and non-profit events: Teen City, Rebuilding Together, United Way’s Day of Caring, the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life, and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s: Light the Night Walk. Employees are also given time to serve on boards of local non-profits and share leadership talents to benefit the community.

Exchange Bank made the first Lead Challenge gift to kick-off the SRJC 100th Anniversary Campaign in 2016. Other notable contributions include a multi-year commitment to the Saralee Kunde Barn at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds, continued annual support for the Redwood Empire Food Bank and Social Advocates for Youth (SAY). In total, Exchange Bank contributes to over 300 charitable organizations and non-profits each year.

Exchange Bank’s mission statement is “From generation to generation, we invest in people, business and community to build a strong future.”

Tell us a little bit about yourself

I am a local boy, third generation Sonoma County. I was born in Petaluma and grew up in Santa Rosa. Graduated from Montgomery High in 1972, graduated from SRJC, 1974, married my high school sweetheart, Becky Howe, graduated from Long Beach and came home to Santa Rosa. Becky and I have two adult children, Todd (Chrissy) and Haley (Andrew). Becky is a Physical Therapist, retired from Kaiser. Our son/daughter-in law live in Santa Rosa and our daughter and son-in law live in Sacramento.

Family and community have always been my priorities.

Becky and I have traveled all over the U.S. by car, we love road trips, small towns, no reservations, quaint hotels, pubs, restaurants, museums, parks, hikes, book stores, and antique shops.

We have traveled to Europe and I cannot accept this award in person because we will be in New Zealand. There is a big world out there to explore and we have just begun.

What is your role in the organization?

Senior vice president and retail delivery group manager, I am responsible for the day to day operations of the Exchange Bank branch system and call center.

What achievement are you most proud of?

My kids, my 43-year journey with Becky, my career contributions to the success of Exchange Bank that has helped fund the Doyle Scholarships and has allowed me to give back to the community.

What is your biggest challenge today?

The juggling act we all call life. It is fun, challenging, exhausting, scary, heartbreaking, and rewarding all at the same time

What is the next major project either underway or on the horizon?

It is helping create the Branch of the Future for Exchange Bank. Technology has changed the world and it has certainly changed the way people bank.

What motivates you to volunteer your time and talent?

Life has been very good to me and the best way I know to be grateful is to give back.

How do you think the role of the board member will change in the next five years? Technology is changing how all organizations communicate, share information, hold meetings, etc. However, I still see board members most important role being a conduit between the organization and the community.

Is there anything you would like to add?

I would like to recognize the amazing Chop’s staff lead by Lorez Bailey, Melissa Stewart, Cadance Hinkle and all my fellow Chop’s board members.

Most admired businessperson outside your organization: Tom Schwedhelm has dedicated his life to public service and continues to provide leadership, passion, and commitment to our community.

Current reading: All things banking for work and anything by John Grisham or James Patterson for pleasure.

Most want to meet: Willie Mays I am a lifelong Giants fan and fell asleep as a boy listening to Giants games on the radio.

Stress relievers: Walks or a glass of wine listing to ’60s music in the hot tub.

Favorite hobbies: Golf, reading, walks

Social media you most use: LinkedIn

Buzzword from your industry you hate the most: “Banker’s hours.”

Words that best describe you: People person.