Viewpoint: Leading by Example

Jennifer Goodyer
(Image credit: Future)

Bradford Benn, industry veteran and founder of Advisist Group, is supporting "Rosie Riveters Explores Pro AV" 2023 for a second consecutive year as a title sponsor. As a co-founder of the STEM and Pro AV outreach program, I recognize and believe it’s an extremely worthy cause and deserves the funding, but I genuinely wanted to sit down with Bradford to learn his perspective and why he felt so passionately about this program to award the foundation with his donation for this second year. His answers didn't necessarily surprise me, but the inspiration from his support helped remind me why we started this in the first place.

[Viewpoint: Life Lessons]

In 2022, with a $5,000 goal, Erica Carroll and I began fundraising for Rosie Riveters in efforts to take actionable steps toward introducing more girls to the Pro AV and IT Industries, with the objective to eventually close the gender gap for the next generation. We believed this goal to be ambitious but reasonable, as it was the amount required to fund elementary school girls with STEM kits that would acquaint them with binary coding and introduce exciting AV and IT careers.

Bradford Benn, Advisist Group

Bradford Benn (Image credit: Advisist Group)

However, regardless of our PR efforts and consistent campaigning, the needle was barely moving. In fact, more than half the donations were self-funded at that point. Just when we were beginning to lose a little hope, we received a phone call from Bradford generously offering to fund the entire fundraiser, including a promise to stay active throughout the volunteer program of Rosie Riveters Explores Pro AV.

When asked why he made the decision to give so generously, the same year he was founding his own company, Bradford said that he believes in leading by example, hoping to spark the flame for the rest of the industry for a cause he truly stands behind. His ideology was that if large corporations would see his emphasis on the importance in funding this program, they would hopefully give at similar levels.

To put it lightly, he was correct. Advisist’s initial sponsorship created a snowball effect that resulted in us raising more than $30,000 over our initial goal for Rosie Riveters.

Importance of Reengagement

Bradford is not just known as a trusted industry veteran, but a passionate and generous philanthropist who researches and actively promotes the programs he funds and supports. He practices what he preaches and will only appear on speaking panels that include diverse speakers. He believes it’s crucial to have diversity represented on any panel to not create an echo chamber of the same perspective from people with the same backgrounds and identities.

[Viewpoint: Welcome to the AV Renaissance]

It wasn’t just that he believes in supporting diversity, but he also had faith in the Rosie Riveters program because of its success with sponsors such as Boeing and NASA. He also believed in the potential of the physical STEM kits that would introduce girls to the language of computing that he would not only be funding but building.

Advisist’s initial sponsorship created a snowball effect that resulted in us raising more than $30,000 over our initial goal for Rosie Riveters.

He felt secure about his donation—not only because of those actionable items, but in Rosie Riveters' strong belief in reengagement. This pillar of the nonprofit aligned with one of Bradford’s own personal mottos for effective charity: “Sponsorship is not a 'give the money and you are done' type of scenario. If you want to see effective change, you need to remain involved and active within the charity or organization.”

According to a study by Root Cause, a nonprofit consulting team, 75% of respondents look for concrete information about a charity's achievements before deciding about where to give. Because Rosie Riveters Explores Pro AV was able to provide a timeline and plan of fundraising for the months leading up to InfoComm, as well as having a presence at the AVIXA Women’s Council Breakfast to promote the outreach program, Bradford saw he would be able to have a tangible visualization of where his money would be going. In fact, Bradford was even able to participate in a Southern California packing party, where they packed hundreds of STEM kits that would be going out to a local school.

Waking Up the Industry

Although Bradford has always supported various diversity groups, he was surprised and a little disappointed when he saw the response to the plan Rosie Riveters Explores Pro AV was implementing. What he believed to be a very small ask for our goal was not even nearly being met. He took this disappointment and decided someone needed to be the one to step up and lead by example—so, as we know, he generously funded the entire financial goal.

Rosie Riveters Explores Pro AV Logo

(Image credit: Rosie Riveters)

We truly believe that because of this grand act of charity, it woke up the industry. Not only did it cause the snowball effect for financial donations, but it caught the attention of industry leaders. Plus, industry publications became involved in fundraising because of Bradford's reputation on supporting worthy charities and advocacy for diversity.

According to the Advisist Group, support for women in STEM not only advances diversity and innovation, it also counters gender disparity and builds gender-balanced future innovators. Because Rosie Riveters promises reengagement, we can follow these girls to support them throughout their education and even help with career planning.

[Viewpoint: Here Comes Convergence]

In fact, shortly after the first few STEM kit packing parties, the founder of Rosie Riveters was able to connect us with a recent graduate who was looking to start a career in the Pro AV field. We were able to connect her with the AVIXA Women's Council Southern California group, and they were able to guide her in our industry.

Bradford believes that it’s not how much you give, it’s that you give in the first place. Plus, there is action in giving, and if you can’t give financially, he argues there are still ways to get involved to be the change you want to see in our industry and the world.

To donate or learn more, visit  

Jennifer Goodyer

Jennifer Goodyer is a sales manager at RT Sales and founding board member of WAVIT.