BY MARTI MAGUIRE
It was Danny Rosin’s prep school pranks that first led him into his role as a sort of rebel philanthropist.
He would do something stupid, like sneak up into the rafters to drop raisins on his friends, and then promise to raise money for a local charity rather than wash blackboards.
Rosin would go on to start his own screen printing business while he was a UNC-Chapel Hill undergraduate and later launched the promotional advertising company Brand Fuel, which sells promotional products, with friends.
But his unusual approach to charity continued, most notably as a co-founder of Band Together, which raises money for area nonprofits through annual concerts. This year’s May 6 concert will feature Ben Folds and has already raised more than $1 million to build the ambitious new YMCA of the Triangle facility in Southeast Raleigh.
Rosin served as board president of Band Together for more than a decade and in that role helped it transition as it brought on a paid director. He remains co-chair of its advisory board, helping develop its marketing efforts and bringing in new leaders, donors and volunteers.
Matt Strickland, director of Band Together, calls Rosin “Mr. Connectivity,” the kind of person who finds people jobs and introduces couples that end up marrying. In the case of Band Together, that ease with connecting people helped him bring in key leaders, volunteers and donors.
In addition, Strickland says, Rosin’s marketing expertise and passion for the cause remain crucial to the organization’s success.
“His heart is as big as a Mac truck,” Strickland says. “He’s the guy with the biggest smile in the room. He’s one of our biggest champions, always out there singing our praises.”
Rosin was the first child adopted into a family that continued to grow, initially to three children, then to eight when his adoptive mother remarried. (He later found his birth parents and added three more siblings to the mix.)
He loved to play sports – lacrosse, football and wrestling – and in later years picked up soccer. At 5-foot-6, he learned to work hard to get a place on the team. It’s an ethic that has carried through to other aspects of his life.
“I’m that scrappy guy who has to fight for position and starting roles,” he says. “It’s been a good thing for me.”
His early charity projects put his spirited personality to work. In junior high, he and friends created a fake club so they could skip class to be in a parade. Needing to follow through, the “Happy Club” settled on the theme of kids helping kids and started holding fundraisers to benefit children in the community.
A family friend who was involved with Smile International took notice, and the club evolved into an arm of that organization, which sends students to other countries to assist in cleft palate surgeries. Rosin went to the Philippines on one of these trips.
Seeing that project made an impression on him.
“My style has always been sort of the anti-fundraising gala,” he says. “I’m a pretty nontraditional guy. I want to try to do something unique and compelling.”
Paying for college for eight children was a challenge for his parents, so when Rosin set off to UNC-CH, he knew he would have to cover a lot of his expenses.
“They said, ‘We’ll do this much, but you’ll have to fund the rest yourself,’ ” he says.
To fill the gap, Rosin started selling screen-printed T-shirts – a business that gained traction quickly by capitalizing on the Tar Heels’ visceral hatred of the Duke University Blue Devils.
The effort was so successful, he expanded the business after graduation.
“My hatred of Duke helped me fund my way through college,” he says.
In 1998, he formed Brand Fuel with some friends. The company focused on a wide variety of promotional products and strategies. Rosin is now co-president of the company, which employs about 30 people in four locations and is an industry leader.
He’s on the board of the Promotional Products Association International, and takes part in a number of other initiatives, such as founding PromoKitchen.org, a networking and mentorship site, and Reciprocity Road, a partnership among like-minded companies with a built-in service component.
And his volunteer work goes beyond Band Together. He spends his weekends coaching his daughters’ soccer teams.
“It’s a way we get to spend some time together,” he says.
Growing from 9/11
Band Together began on Sept. 11, 2001. After Rosin and friends watched the World Trade Center towers collapse, they decided to have an event to benefit first responders. Someone floated the idea of a wine dinner, but Rosin wanted to go bigger – an outdoor concert.
They spent a few weeks organizing the first concert, tapping into their professional networks for sponsorships. They had four bands, brought a group of firefighters and police officers down from New York City as honored guests, and raised $60,000 for disaster relief.
“It was a beautiful night and it just felt so good,” he says. “People were dealing with something very, very difficult, and this let them come together as a community.”
They decided to do another one, and the effort grew from there.
When they started working with nonprofits, they quickly saw areas where their skills filled a need, including corporate fundraising and marketing. So they started working alongside each nonprofit for a full year before the concert, doing other fundraising events and helping them expand their reach.
In 2013, they hired a full-time director, and the concerts have grown since. Recent partnerships have raised up to $2 million. The concert is now the celebration that caps the whole experience.
“We wanted to create an experience around doing good,” he says.
While most of their partners have been smaller nonprofits, this year the event will benefit the YMCA of the Triangle, specifically the project to build a new facility in Southeast Raleigh. Rosin says Band Together chose to go with the larger, more established nonprofit because the project was so visionary, and its price tag so high. The YMCA is trying to raise $15 million.
The new YMCA is meant to be more than a gym. Plans include a site with affordable housing, a public school, and health care services, as well as a store with fresh produce, something lacking in the area.
Rosin and others recently took sponsors on a bus tour of the area near where the facility will be built, which he hopes will help people become more invested than they would if they just wrote a check.
“We’ll be able to look at that project and say we were part of improving people’s lives for generations to come,” he says.
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