AIDS Awareness Red Ribbon. ©Alina Oswald.

Feature Article: AIDS Visionaries

A 2013 interview with Mister Nonprofit and #tbt feature article published in A&U Magazine

AIDS Visionaries

Tony Beall, president and CEO of Mister Nonprofit Consultancy, helps AIDS nonprofits on the way to an AIDS-free generation and beyond
by Alina Oswald

Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life’s coming attractions,” is one of Albert Einstein’s famous quotes. On the same note, a quote from the now memorable book The Secret encourages readers to “Visualize! Rehearse your future.

Mister Nonprofit Consultancy began as a vision in Tony Beall’s imagination, from where it grew organically into a successful business, winning the 2012 Small Business of the Year Award from the local Greater Fort Lauderdale Chamber of Commerce. Mister Nonprofit Consultancy was founded in 2010, but its story started in 1993, when its president and CEO, Tony Beall—then working for American Express—was appointed as an AmEx representative to a corporate round table for AIDS Walk Chicago. “It was the first time for me understanding how it all worked,” Beall explains when we talk on the phone. “Up to that point, I didn’t even realize that you could have a career working in nonprofits.”

“Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life’s coming attractions.” Albert Einstein

Yet, the 1993 AIDS Walk Chicago experience motivated him to free himself from what he refers to as “the golden handcuffs” of the corporate world and start out on his own. The reason behind Beall’s decision is twofold—on the one hand there’s his determination to leave behind a legacy, and, with it, his own footprint on the philanthropic world; on the other hand, his desire to serve the community is part of his DNA.

“My father was a volunteer fireman,” Beall explains. “I can remember almost every time we would sit down for Thanksgiving dinner, the fire alarm would go off, and my father would have to leave and go into a fire. We’re talking the seventies and eighties, so a lot of today’s technologies were not around. So at home we had what we called scanners, these radios that picked up the emergency network. When there was a fire, these scanners would go off in our house and my dad knew that he needed to report to the firehouse.”

As a child, Beall did not understand the significance of his father’s work. Yet growing up watching his parent serve the community left a permanent imprint, inspiring his work later in life. So in 1998, when he moved to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Beall got in touch with the local AIDS Walk organizer. He became co-chair of the event in a volunteer capacity. The very next year, in 1999, he was hired as the event coordinator for the Fort Lauderdale AIDS Walk. That was his first paid nonprofit job. “So, when we talk about my work in HIV/AIDS, if it hadn’t been for my experience with the AIDS Walk Chicago, I might not have considered transitioning myself to nonprofits,” he concludes.

ACT UP bracelet. ©Alina Oswald.

Tony Beall continued his work, while serving on the Board of Directors for the Greater Fort Lauderdale Chamber of Commerce, where he helped launch a resource center for nonprofit organizations. Soon CEOs and other executives of these nonprofits started seeking his advice on how to overcome different hurdles. “People in the community just started calling me Mister Nonprofit,” Beall says. “This was, for me, a catalyst to start out on my own.” Hence, the name of his company: Mister Nonprofit Consultancy.

The main purpose of Mister Nonprofit Consultancy is to get nonprofits sustainable. “[I] help them do my work, so that they don’t need me [anymore],” Beall explains. “I do a lot of strategic planning, board retreats, and grant writing. I don’t just work with the client to create a plan. I always [help] the client get [this plan] off the ground.” That’s because, Beall adds, a lot of times the leadership of the nonprofit does not have the opportunities, time, or means to do this kind of creative thinking.

Mister Nonprofit Consultancy has helped clients from all walks of life, supporting a wide range of causes. As Mister Nonprofit, Tony Beall has worked on projects for amfAR. He also traveled to Monaco, to attend a collaborative fundraising event for environmental causes supported by both the Clinton Foundation and Prince Albert II Foundation. “The night of the event, Prince Albert of Monaco was there, and [so was] Bill Clinton,” Beall recalls. “I remember when I got home from the trip, I felt like I woke up from some crazy dream, because how often do you get engaged in a project where you get to fly to Monaco to work on a very high-end dinner where there’s Prince Albert of Monaco and President Clinton? It was amazing!”

Mister Nonprofit Consultancy has also worked with individuals interested in starting their own nonprofits. There are three questions Beall always asks his potential clients:

Is there a need for the nonprofit organization?

What value is the new nonprofit going to bring to
the community?

Is the new nonprofit going to duplicate services?

“Because,” Beall explains, “sometimes what you have is a great idea for a program that could reside in an existing nonprofit organization. So, why create—for the lack of a better term—competition in the marketplace, when you could partner with an existing nonprofit and still have the same impact in the community that you’re looking to have? Let’s just make sure that it makes sense, this organization you have in mind.”

He further comments that there are various reasons for starting a new nonprofit: people may recognize a certain need for the particular nonprofit; or they may get frustrated with their existing nonprofits and, instead of working through the issues, they walk away from their organizations to create new ones, and thus more competition for the same dollars.

“Visualize! Rehearse your future.” The Secret

Beall describes how this applies to AIDS nonprofits and, as I find out, to cancer nonprofits, too. “No one [AIDS] organization can serve all the needs of people living with HIV/AIDS,” he says. “So you need a lot of organizations to cover the diverse issues of the community, because I don’t believe that one organization can effectively meet the needs of the [AIDS] community. That being said,” he adds, “there are many organizations that may be serving HIV/AIDS patients by doing identically the same thing…and fighting for the same money; therefore, money is spread too thin. Duplication of services makes it difficult for everybody [to get the needed funds].”

Rise-Up to HIV and ACT UP Bracelets. Photo by Alina Oswald.
Rise-Up to HIV and ACT UP Bracelets. Photo by Alina Oswald.

Mister Nonprofit Consultancy sets itself as an example for its clients, by embracing new ways of doing business, especially on-line, but also off-line. “I do that intentionally,” Beall explains. “Because I’ll always be a teenager in my head. I’m always very much on top of what’s going on culturally [and] stay in touch with what’s the latest, greatest and coolest thing that’s going on. But you know, in terms of getting organizational leaders to understand the value of these new technologies, you really need to prove it to them, you need to create case studies and show them how organizations go from zero to fifty using the new tools that are available in the marketplace.”

Talking about the new way of doing business, Beall praises AIDS grass-roots organizations for embracing the new technologies, getting the word out about their work, about funding opportunities, and also about the latest treatments. “I think that’s important,” he comments, “because we still have folks now in their fifties and sixties who are not social media savvy [and] need that monthly newsletter that comes in the mail. Unfortunately, [we] still have plenty of younger folks becoming HIV-positive, and the message for them should be coming through Facebook and Twitter [in order] to be heard.”

Mentioning the progress of AIDS service organizations, Beall recalls the current Presidential initiative to end AIDS. That brings the conversation to the topic of an AIDS cure and, even more importantly in this case, of what may happen after the discovery of an affordable cure.

“I have a hard time wrapping my head around this question,” Beall comments, “because I don’t know what a cure means. Does cure mean [total eradication of] the disease? Is the definition of [an AIDS] cure something that prevents people from getting HIV [while] leaving a whole community of people living with HIV [infected] prior to the cure? So… and I shouldn’t say this, [but my guess is that] a lot of organizations that are strictly research-based…are gonna go away. Organizations providing services to the community probably won’t go away, depending on how we define ‘cure.’ Because as long as we have individuals living with HIV, there’s always gonna be services that may be needed.”

AIDS Awareness Red Ribbon. ©Alina Oswald.
World AIDS Day red ribbon ©Alina Oswald

Beall’s answer makes me wonder if it’s too soon to talk about an after-an-AIDS-cure scenario. When I mention this to him, he kindly disagrees. “I’m one of these visualization people,” he responds. “In order for it to become real, you have to envision it first. So [why not] take this conversation [about finding an AIDS cure] a step further? Let’s hope that a cure for AIDS is gonna lead to a cure for cancer, or vice versa. I’ve never seen these things sitting in their own binders. I see these things as all complementing each other.” While helping AIDS and other nonprofits take a step further in reaching their goals, Mister Nonprofit continues to envision—and then realize—his own goals. “I want to be sustainable,” Beall says talking about his company’s future. “I want to continue [having] a very small consulting business, [and] do more work on a national level, to have a larger footprint, leave a larger legacy.

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