Joanne Posner-Mayer has found many ways to be philanthropic, using her time, her money and even her credit to help organizations she loves.
Posner-Mayer’s philanthropic journey starts with a childhood rich in experience and relationship if poor in financial resources, then takes a sharp right turn when she became an entrepreneur in the fitness market and made a successful investment. Now she travels down roads based on a mix of serendipity, curiosity and the things she cares about most.
“I found out we were ‘low income’ when I applied to go to college,” says Posner-Mayer, who grew up in Denver. Her father was a Polish immigrant who owned a hardware store and her mother was a Holocaust survivor. “But,” she remarks, “I felt spoiled because I always had ballet lessons.” After becoming a physical therapist she developed the use of what at the time was a little-known physical therapy tool – a large exercise ball. By authoring books, videos and starting her own company, Fitball™, she pioneered the use of the now ubiquitous exercise balls in physical therapy and the fitness industry.
Following a successful investment, Posner-Mayer had extra money in the bank for the first time in her life. A financial advisor recommended she put money into a donor-advised fund, and suggested Rose Community Foundation. As she researched donations to make through her fund, Posner-Mayer connected with nonprofit organizations that reflected things she loved in her own life – her past as a dancer through the Colorado Ballet, her love of art and culture through the Denver Art Museum and her Jewish roots through JEWISHcolorado. She has also established an endowed scholarship to the physical therapy program in the University of Colorado’s School of Medicine, and funded a teaching garden for elementary school students in Ramat Negev in Israel in honor of her mother’s memory.
“A benefit of getting involved is meeting wonderful and like-minded people,” she says. As a board member of the Colorado Ballet, she understood that the organization really needed a new facility. It occurred to her that one way she could help was to use credit she had available to loan the Ballet money at her very low interest rate. The loan helped the organization secure a building while they were still raising the money they needed. Thanks in part to this transaction, the Colorado Ballet was able to purchase its own building for the first time in its history.
She was able to facilitate a similar transaction for the Rose Andom Center, an organization which works to improve the lives of domestic violence victims by providing access to services and staff of community organizations and government agencies in a single, safe location.
Another opportunity presented itself when Posner-Mayer heard Andrew Romanoff, a Denver civic leader, share his vision for opening an internationally-oriented nonprofit and workspace in the Curtis Park neighborhood. This is the neighborhood where Posner-Mayer’s father’s hardware store had been located. “That neighborhood fed my family growing up,” she says. The opportunity to help give back resonated immediately. She made a donation to the organization large enough to meet its capital campaign goal, and was able to name it the Posner Center in honor of her parents. The center now houses a number of nonprofits and nongovernmental organizations working in different ways to end poverty around the world.
Posner-Mayer has also worked alongside these organizations to provide for their long-term sustainability. She seeded endowment funds for the Colorado Ballet and the Posner Center at Rose Community Foundation, and made it possible for them to participate in Rose Community Foundation’s Endowment Building Cohorts. This program supplies participating organizations with information and infrastructure to build an endowment fund, which can then provide investment income and stability for nonprofit organizations over the long run. She is also working with the Rose Andom Center to begin their endowment over the coming year.
“It is fulfilling to me to be able to help these organizations in a significant way,” says Posner-Mayer, “since I have been so fortunate myself.”