Transcript: Robin King
The transcript from this week’s, MiB: Robin King, Navy SEAL Foundation, is below.
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RITHOLTZ: This week on the podcast I have an extra special guest for our Fourth of July holiday special. When I interviewed Henry Cornell who’s the former Goldman Sachs private equity person, now runs Cornell Capital and really fascinating guy with a tremendous history, when we were talking about some of his charitable foundations and various board works that he does, he mentioned the Navy SEAL Foundation.
And I have to tell you I was quite intrigued not only because over the course of my career I’ve been lucky enough to work with a number of military vets, I started on a training desk and the guy on my right was a Marine jungle combat instructor and the guy my left was an Army Ranger. So I felt when we went out after training for the day I felt I could basically do anything. I was completely invulnerable to any school sort of trouble.
And now today I have a number of military veterans working in my firm, both as our CFO is one person and our CTO is another person. And I call those guys our “secret weapon.”
So the opportunity to speak with Robin King who is the CEO of the Navy SEAL Foundation was just too good to — to pass up. She has been a military spouse for many years. She has spent time both within the community of military families, as well as a person who is helping to take care of those families post service in — in a variety of ways, both financial and organizational, helping them deal with sometimes trying certain circumstances, on rare occasion tragic circumstances. Aand I think it’s a — a wonderful organization that does great work. I couldn’t imagine a better guest for July 4th.
So with no further ado, my conversation with Robin King.
VOICE-OVER: This is Masters in Business with Barry Ritholtz on Bloomberg Radio.
RITHOLTZ: My special guest for the July Fourth holiday weekend is Robin King. She is the Chief Executive Officer for the Navy SEAL Foundation, which provides critical support and assistance to the Naval Special Warfare community and its families. They are based out of Coronado, California, where Naval Special Warfare Command is located, as well as where the SEAL Qualification Training takes place. She is recipient amongst other honorifics of the U.S. Special Operations Command’s Outstanding Civilian Service Medal.
Robin King, welcome to Bloomberg.
KING: Thank you. Thanks for having me this morning.
RITHOLTZ: So I think the — the role of military families is one of those things where there is a lot of sacrifice given and very little praise or fanfare recognized. Families have to endure long separations from the military spouse. Families often get moved around from place to place. Tell us about your experience as a military spouse.
KING: Yeah. You know, it’s a very different life. It’s not one that I — I didn’t marry a SEAL. My wonderful husband determined after we were married for a couple of years that this is something he wanted to do. So, you know, people jokingly in this community always say, “Well, you knew what you’re marrying into,” but I absolutely didn’t.
It’s a unique life and that you learn how important community is, whether that’s your neighbors, the Naval Special Warfare community, your friends, your family. You have to learn to become really independent. And that is not really independent of your husband, but it’s being able to be independent with and without your husband.
So, you know, the incredible amount of time that they’re gone can really bring out some amazing things and, you know, the spouse and the families. You learn what you can handle. You learn where you need to lean on people. You develop some incredible strength. And I don’t know any spouses who wish they didn’t go through this amazingly enough. As tough as it can be, I think we’re all really proud to be part of this community and part of his life and — and to do this for our country.
RITHOLTZ: You mentioned you didn’t marry a SEAL. Your husband was a photographer, right? Like I — I couldn’t imagine anything more polar opposite than when I — what I think of when I think of a Navy SEAL. How did he come to the decision to change his career path and — and what was your reaction to that?
KING: Yeah, you know, SEALs probably have one of the most diverse sets of backgrounds and all these guys. You know, what we have everything from, you know, guys who have their PhDs, you know, guys who are photography — I mean, his degree was in fine art photography.
My husband’s much older half-brother was a Vietnam Air (ph) SEAL. And he had taken a trip down to San Diego to visit him one weekend when he was — had traveled across the country to visit an old Vietnam era buddy. And my husband said, “I’m going to go down and visit Mike (inaudible).” Great, go have a fabulous weekend, you know, see when you get back.
At this time, we were living in Pasadena. We had a house. We had a life, and he came back and looked at me and said, “I want to be a SEAL. I’ve always wanted to be a SEAL.” And I think I probably cried for about a week.
And I just didn’t — you know, I — I didn’t know anything about military life. I didn’t know what that would be, but I knew it was going to be a dramatic change. But it was really apparent that this was something that he just had to do. It was a calling. And not — you know, I’ve never experienced anything like that. You know, I don’t have anything that just spoke to me so strongly that I just had to do it.
And, you know, he actually went in on the older end. He was 26 when he started this journey. And God, you know, he — he loves his job every day.
We were sitting around the other evening with my daughters and everybody is talking about work, and he just chuckled to “I love my job,” you know. So, you know, a lot of people have a lot of complaints, but he does not. He loves it with everything he has. So that’s fun to be around.
RITHOLTZ: Huh, I can imagine. So — so one of the things about the military brats I know and the stories I’ve heard is how often their families had to move from assignment-to-assignment, base-to-base. And for the spouse, very often, they’re working in careers like teachers and nurses and other things like that where there’s a state certification required. And then suddenly you pick up and move to a new state and you have to start all over. How do you deal with that? Do states cross-honor other licensing or is this still a problem today?
KING: Yeah, that’s a great question. There has been a lot of movement in ensuring that military spouses have much more portable careers. So there’s a 2018 National Defense Authorization Act, which allows the spouses to get reimbursed for life (inaudible). There is a lot of states that are implementing or in the process of implementing portability measures for spouses. There are organizations like the Navy SEAL Foundation that provides scholarships to help with funding if you — you know, it’s above the reimbursement, it’s allowed by the military branches. And, you know, it’s really heartening to see that the government is taking this seriously and they understand these challenges by the spouses. And the states are really working hard at ensuring that these spouses aren’t leaving behind their — their law career, their nursing career, their teaching career.
And, yeah, I was in a meeting recently and a spouse who’s an attorney said she just got her license renewed from Virginia to California, and she was very excited that she was able to make that happen and was going to talk to another attorney in the room on how she did that without retaking the bar, which I can’t even imagine doing. There’s a lot of good things going on that space.
RITHOLTZ: That’s great. So — so you’ve been with the Navy SEAL Foundation since its inception in 2000. How did the foundation come about? And what was your involvement from — from the beginning?
KING: Sure. The Navy SEAL Foundation grew out of a fraternal order of Navy SEALs called UDT-SEAL Association, and that still exist. It’s been around since the 60’s. And the UDT-SEAL Association had a small scholarship program where they awarded scholarships to the dependent children of SEALs. And that is about $14,000 a year that was being awarded at that time. And this was in 2000 when I started working with them.
We had a donor come to us and say, “Hey, I want to give to the scholarship program. I want to give $100,000, but you have to be a 501(c)(3), which the association was not. It was a fraternal order, so it’s all under a different tax code. And $100,000 is a significant amount of money. And so we were like, “Absolutely, you know, we can do that. Let’s form a 501(c)(3).” And we — you know, the original thoughts were we can expand our scholarship program. This is fabulous.
And so we did that, got the great donation and, you know, fast forward just a little bit of time and we’re at 9/11. And, you know, obviously the world changed. And me and my husband actually left in November of that same year. And we lost our first SEAL in Afghanistan in March 2002. And we lost our second SEAL also in March 2002 in Afghanistan. And we kind of looked at each other — just a couple of us — and we said, you know, things have changed.
And the first SEAL we lost in Afghanistan was Neil Roberts, and he wrote an incredible letter for — in his records. It was one of those, you know, if you’re reading this letter about how much he loved what he did and, you know, died doing what he was supposed to be doing. And that got picked up by the press, and we started receiving donations from that. People are just looking for a place to give and support his family. And we understood that we had a responsibility with these donations to do something for those families.
And so over time, you know, just like what happened with Neil and the families, and the community, and the stresses in the operational tempo, the foundation just began to evolve. And by creating great programs, you know, we’ve got more donations and we supported more families in a — in a bigger better way, which spawned, you know, more great programs and — and more great donations.
You know, so it was really just this organic development that ended up being this — this great organization that provides incredible support today. And, you know, the guys — I was there when it started. I wouldn’t say I was much more than that. The guys that started this were retired SEALs. I don’t think we have any of them still on our board today, but they’re still always happy to attend things and an active and talk very positively and — and support the foundation in big, big ways. It was — it was a great group of guys, and I was just lucky to be at the right place at the right time.
RITHOLTZ: Let’s talk a little bit about your background. In finance, you are both CFO and now your CEO of the SEAL Foundation. How did your prior career help you get ready for this role?
KING: Yeah, that’s an interesting question and I don’t think I have really had to think about before. You know, out of school, I went to work for McDonnell Douglas, which is now part of Boeing, and I worked as a financial analyst on military special projects. And from there, I ended up with the Walt Disney Company working as an auditor for the Disney Channel back when the Disney Channel was a pay channel before it became part of, you know, basic — not basic cable but, you know, more a standard package. And I guess, Disney now has its pay channel as well.
You know, so there was a lot of my previous career history that focused on, you know, planning, budgeting, paying attention to the details. And I remember when, you know, people first started to ask me if there’s a difference between for for-profit and nonprofit, and I remember thinking — I — I don’t really view them all that differently other than there are a few rules you have to follow for non-profit. So I think I kind of came out the Navy SEAL Foundation with a more of a for-profit mindset, and I understood the importance like, you know, anybody would.
The importance of really ensuring that the donors know how well we take care of their dollar and how much we try to squeeze out of every dollar, and that that needs to be transparent. They always need to be very comfortable that they are making the right decision. I mean, they’re giving us a gift, right? And we have to know what we’re doing with it, why we’re doing that, that our programs makes sense, that they have a philosophy that aligns with our customer base, which is, you know, Naval Special Warfare SEAL community. And I think we’ve — we’ve done a really good job at that. You know, we — we know exactly why we do everything we do, and that’s really important.
And, you know, we sit around have some pretty interesting conversations when we’re making decisions about new programs or program growth or if you — we need you to scale something back. You know, we don’t take any of that lightly.
RITHOLTZ: So — so let’s talk about both of those things that you mentioned because it’s really very, very interesting. I want to get into some of the programs that you guys run a little later, but let’s talk about the donor base. I understand you have a broad group of donors. Tell us what the range of people who give to the Navy SEAL Foundation looks like. Who’s the typical donor that you count on and, obviously, not by name, but what sort of person chooses the Navy SEAL Foundation as their favorite charity?
KING: You know, we have such a broad base of donors everybody from, you know, members of the SEAL community themselves, their friends, their family. We’ve developed great relationships with people, and businesses, and business leaders across the country, you know, and then we just have our — our, you know, great American patriots who may not even know that much about the military, but are just, you know, honored to support our military in some way. And, you know, we’re lucky enough that they’ve chosen Navy SEAL foundation.
You know, we’ve done a lot of work connecting with donors through, you know, major events, but we continue to expand with partnerships, with companies like, you know, Reebok is a — is a great partner of us. And we try to incorporate, you know, our donors and our partners into really connecting with this community and understanding, you know, what makes SEALs different and what makes SEALs special, and why they need exists. I mean, this is a very proud community who, you know, you certainly aren’t going to hear or say, you know, we need your help. And that’s where the foundation comes in looking at, you know, what it is these families have to deal with and — and discussing it with the donors who have always just been so incredibly thoughtful and respectful of the privacy of this community and, you know, what it is that they deal with on a daily basis.
So, you know, I don’t know if I could say, you know, one type of donor because it really is incredibly varied, but I can tell you across the country where we’ve had, you know, major events. And we have just some really incredible major donors that have been so pleased with the Navy SEAL Foundation in what we do that they leverage their networks. You know, they are connecting us with their friends, which is a lot, you know. To us, it says a lot because that’s hard to do, right, you know, to go ask your friend to participate in something because you think it matters. You know, you’re going to really believe in it if you’re doing that.
And we’ve been extremely lucky on the relationships we’ve built and how these people feel about the Navy SEAL Foundation. And we just — we hope we can continue to make them feel a part of this team because we do view it as a team. Every donor, every supporter, everybody who puts on a small race or, you know, sells their own t-shirts for us or we’ve had kids who do lemonade stands. Those are all part of this team and every one of those dollars matters to us being able to provide incredible support to this community.
RITHOLTZ: So how do you balance the needs of the community that you’re serving when there are obviously some very current short-term needs, but on the same time you have to think long-term about the financial health of the organization and your mission is perpetual. How do you balance between what you want to do right now and what you want the organization to be able to do one, five, 10 years out?
KING: Yeah, it is a balance, and we work hard to support that immediate need with always keeping an eye on that, you know, long-term objective. You know, we have, you know, (inaudible) these kids. We want the kids go to camp this year, and we want 10 years from now kids still go to camp, right? We can’t look up and say, oh, sorry, we didn’t plan well enough so, you know, your younger children don’t need to go to camp. We really understand when we roll out new programs. Every time we do that, we make sure that it’s going to be sustainable long-term.
So, you know, every year we are budgeting and forecasting processes is really intensive. We work with staff. We work with committees of the board. We leverage our board members and their expertise and we bring forward what we think we want to spend the following year and what those programs entail.
And, you know, with that there’s always a buffer. We like a buffered budget because we want to take that buffered money assuming that the date — you know, the year goes right and put that towards our long-term needs. You know, so overtime we built up a reserve, you know, an emergency contingency reserve. We’re working towards building an endowment. And all of those things help ensure that we’re able to continue all and provide every program that we’ve promised well into the future.
And with this virus right now, you know, we’re really stepping into the first layer of what catastrophe can be like (inaudible) cash reserve, you know, the wrong word here. But, you know, how do you deal when your whole fundraising dynamics have to change? And, you know, what’s the impact of that going to be and are you still going to stay in your programs? And the foundation hasn’t missed a beat.
And on top of that, we help support a couple of other foundations that have struggled in other ways. And they provide programs that we feel are important enough that we want to reach across and say, “Hey, we’re going to help you through this — this rough period.” So I’m really proud of how we have planned so that we are able to continue to thrive programs.
I don’t want to miss giving a mom flowers on Memorial Day. I don’t want to not recognize, you know, the — the birthday of a fallen, you know, warrior to his spouse. And, you know, those things may seem little, but to be able to do everything that we’ve — we’ve established that we’re going to do and continue to do that is just hugely important to us. And I really am so proud of how we have planned long-term.
And, you know, I think sometimes non-profits get — get dinged for, you know, you have money in the bank. We have money in the bank for a reason, and that is to sustain these programs forever. You know, nobody is more important to us than our Gold Star and Surviving Families, our veterans, you know, these children who — who serve, you know, and they didn’t choose to serve. And we need these programs for them. And, you know, I think we’re really, really good at it.
RITHOLTZ: Let’s talk a little bit, Robin, about some of the programs that the foundation runs. What do you do for the families of Navy SEALs in general? And what do you do, as you mentioned, for the families of fallen warriors?
KING: So the foundation operates under five main areas of support — warrior and family support, educational opportunities, tragedy assistance and survivor support, warrior transition, and veteran support. And then, you know, we also have a legacy preservation area.
You know, our Gold Star families, our Surviving Families are — you know, have — have been through the unimaginable. And they are one of our first areas of expansion, and we’ve really learned over time by working with these incredible family members, you know, what their needs are. We support them with everything from all of that immediate tragedy assistance. You know, we really like to remove as much stress as we can in those early days, and that is, you know, could be handling memorial reception items. It could be, you know, ensuring that they’re not worried about their mortgage.
You know, we’ve seen people in the past to make decisions too early on. And a lot of our programs are designed to say, “Hey, right now you can just breathe. You know, we’ve got you.” You don’t have to make a decision about if you’re staying in that house, if you’re moving back somewhere, so we’re going to pay your mortgage for a while. And you cannot think about that because so many times we hear from these families that, you know, they were in a (inaudible) for so long and it’s really not the best time to make decisions.
You know, we have discovery grants for the Gold Star and surviving children, and — and these grants are designed so that the kids can pursue something maybe that was unique to them and their dad. You know, maybe their dad was into music, and he was sharing that with his son or daughter, and that’s not an area that mom may be is proficient at. So if they want to go pursue that, we want them to be able to do those things — grief counseling, financial counseling, tax preparation, resiliency gathering.
You know, what we’ve learned over these last 20 years is that what these families do for each other is — is more than anybody can do for them. You know, when you bring them together and they lean on each other, and they share, you know, what they’ve been through, and you can see how the spouses who have been survivors for a good number of years, you know, how they held these — the newer spouses. And it’s really incredible to watch and to — to just be a part of, and a lot of times we just kind of back up and let them do their — do their thing. And (inaudible) on and on …
RITHOLTZ: That’s a really — go ahead. I’m sorry to interrupt.
KING: No, just — you know, it goes on and on. I mean, we really just try to listen to them and we’ve learned over the years. We have about 12 unique programs for just our Gold Star and surviving spouses and — and families.
RITHOLTZ: So — so you kind of put an idea in my idea that I was trying to reconcile, and you just touched on it. The concept that having a spouse that is a warrior forces you to be independent, but at the same time becomes part of a larger community and it — it’s a little bit of yin and yang. Tell us about how those two work together, how you’re both part of a larger community, but at the same time forced to become resilient and independent.
KING: Yeah. You know, the — the SEAL Foundation creates programs that bring people together as part of a community, and we work with Naval Special Warfare and they got some incredible staff members who — who focus on the same thing. We always want people to know that they are part of a community. There are people that you can call.
You know, back years and years ago everybody leaned on their neighbors, right? Everybody — the neighborhoods were tight or you were closer to your family. Well, you know, you’ve been removed from your family. You may have been placed into a neighborhood where you don’t know anybody and — and that takes time. So there are a lot of great programs within the foundation and within Naval Special Warfare itself to bring these spouses together and bring kids together and help them create this community.
But you do have to learn as well, you know, how to — how to do some of these things on your own. I mean, it’s inevitable. The moment your husband walks out the door, the car breaks down or the washing machine, you know, floods the whole kitchen or you have a hurricane because I always take them out during hurricanes and like, “Hey, honey, I’m — I’m leaving you,” and you’re home with toddlers and the hurricane bearing down on you in Virginia Beach. You know, it’s — it’s really fascinating what you have to — to learn to deal with.
And I think through that community connection and sharing of stories and — and everybody sit around laughing about the time that this broke and this flooded and how you dealt with it, and, you know, traumas and tragedies, you really understand what — what you’re capable of and what, you know, everybody in this community is capable of and — and who you can lean on. But, you know, you really have to get used to, you know, your own — I don’t know — triggers, I guess.
You know, I — when my kids were little and my husband was deployed, there were times when I would look around the house and like, “I’m just not going to do that today. I’m just not going to clean that stuff today because I feel like I’m kind of at my — at my tipping point on this day.” It’ll still be there tomorrow, it’ll still be fine tomorrow. The car that broke down in the driveway will still be there tomorrow. I can handle it when I can handle it.
And sometimes you look at cars that’s there for two weeks until you felt, you know, strong enough again to handle it because you — you no longer have the sick child. And, you know, the — the toilet is backing up in your, you know, first floor.
I — I swear we should write a book of spouses stories when your — when your husband leaves because it is like clockwork, that the worst things that ever happened happened. They’re never home for potty training. They’re never home for, you know, that hurricane. It’s — it’s pretty funny, but it’s like a badge of honor, you know, when you talk to these spouses and what they’ve done. It’s pretty incredible. And I — I think we do a really good job of — of leaning on each other and still standing on our own.
RITHOLTZ: So let me ask you this because you’re — you’re alluding to something but not coming right out and saying it. And I’ve been thinking about it while I hear you speak. The spouse deploys. They’re obviously going in harm’s way, dangerous situations. Hey, if they could just send in a — a regular group of either police or military to deal with it, it would have been done that way. So these are not only special missions, but unusually dangerous missions. How do you manage the stress of knowing the risk that your spouse is — is going through and knowing that there’s a possibility that there could be a bad outcome?
KING: Well, for me, it was always — you know, they’re with the best of the best. You know, they — they love the guys they work with. They have, you know, incredible trust for everybody that just pours out of them, and that gives me a lot of comfort — always gave me a lot of comfort knowing that everybody that my husband was working with is doing everything they can in the situation to ensure that they’re all going to come home and they’re going to accomplish their submission.
You just can’t sit around and focus on it, you know. There are no better trained guys in the world, and you assume it’s all going to come out just fine. Most time it does. We’ve had — we’ve suffered some — some big losses, some, you know, mass casualties that were incredibly hard in this community.
And, you know, unfortunately, those are going to happen. Those one-off lucky or unlucky shops, I guess, you know, are going to happen. You just can’t live in that space. You have to assume that they got their back. And when my husband talks about it and any of these guys that I talked to about it, you know, they just look so confident. They feel so confident that they’re just — it creeps into everything else, and you feel it too.
RITHOLTZ: Let’s talk about that issue. Many public institutions have been falling in approval ratings, whether you’re talking about Congress or the police or all these different institutions, have seen their reputation is dinged, and yet the military is the one exception to that still ranked amongst the most trustworthy and highest approval ratings from the public. Why do you think that might be?
KING: You know, it’s a tough thing to answer. And I certainly don’t have an unbiased view on this being someone who works for, you know, a nonprofit that supports them and — and being a spouse of military. I just think the connection between the military and American people is so incredibly strong. And it goes back to the beginning of our roots.
They feel that the military is, you know, doing this for them. I mean, they ask — we all ask these guys to go out and do this hard job. And we asked over and over and over again, and they keep going. And they keep going out there and they keep fighting for us every time without hesitation. Yeah, you don’t really hear that for many other people, right? And they’re proud to do it.
I mean, I remember sitting with my — my daughters watching the Olympics and the year that the first Afghanistan woman was running, and we sat there and talked about how she was running in the Olympics because of what these guys did. You know, we didn’t go over there for that purpose. You know, we went there after 9/11, but the results for that country, at least for the time being, were — were pretty incredible. You know, women getting to go to school and — and being in the Olympics and that kind of thing, I mean, those stories on the pride that, you know, America has in the difference we’ve made in the world, I think, is incredible. And I think just Americans are — are proud of what these guys do and they do it for the right reasons, you know, they do it for all of us that we’re safe here at home.
RITHOLTZ: Quite, quite interesting. So — so it wasn’t always the case that there was strong support for either a military action and that very much translated into a lack of support for the military in the 60’s in Vietnam era. Things have obviously changed and now people are much more comfortable saying, “Thank you for your service.” What else should the public be thinking about as a way to support the military? And — and what should the military, as a service, be doing to continue earning their support.
KING: Yeah, you know, I think the American public is doing a great job from what I see in terms of thanking our — our servicemembers. You know, corporations, businesses all over the country and just individuals make it a point to recognize, you know, the sacrifices of these men and these families. And that goes a long way.
You know, our team guys tend to get embarrassed by it, and I hear a lot of like, “Oh, gosh, don’t thank me.” They love what they do. So, you know, it’s — it’s always a little awkward for them.
And — and as far as what the military can continue to do, I think that just keep doing your job and doing it well and doing it for the right reasons. You know, honor your ethos. You know, respect your command and do — do the right thing for the right reasons. I mean, they get put in a lot of situations that are tough and, you know, respect your training and — and follow what you’re supposed to do, and — and take good care of everybody with you and — and pay a lot of attention to, you know, the countries that you’re in, and be respectful of those. And I think we’ll continue to do an amazing job for all of us and we’ll continue to be very proud to be associated with the American military.
RITHOLTZ: So one of the things I’ve heard that’s complained about is — and this is not a recent thing, this goes back decades and decades, Veterans Administration and the sort of medical care that’s available. On the one hand, a lot of it is cutting edge and as good as it gets anywhere in the world. On the other hand, the bureaucracy can be very problematic for run of the mill ordinary medical needs that people have as — as a result of their — their service, especially if they’ve been in overseas engagements and — and wars and what have you. What can we, as a country, do to — to make sure we’re providing all of the adequate care and support for our veterans when they return from — from military service?
KING: Yeah, I mean, you’re absolutely right. There’s some incredible work coming out of the V.A. and they have, you know, some of the best doctors, and surgeons, and mental health professionals that exist anywhere. And, you know, we are lucky to be associated with some — some great people at the V.A. And our community, you know, hopefully, through groups like the Navy SEAL Foundation and others, has the ability to get the care they need.
I think we need to not work around the V.A. You know, I think they — like you said, they have incredible programs. We need to work through them. We’ve got a demand that they get staff the way they should be. And I think every time we let them — every time we just go around them through different solution set, we’re not forcing the government, the V.A. to do what it needs to be doing and to — to fill its promises.
So, you know, I’m a — I’m a fan of putting pressure on and work in the system as hard as we absolutely can to help it correct itself and to leverage congressmen or whoever we need to shake some of the stuff out of the system. I mean, some great things have come about in terms of if you’re not close enough, you’re allowed to go outside of the system, you know, those things didn’t use to exist. But it’s really disheartening when you hear a V.A. hospital in one particular location and the country is, you know, so inferior to, you know, some of the others, you know, that’s heartbreaking to think about someone not getting the proper care they need and in a timely way.
I think it’s something we should continue to pay attention to and — and really put the pressure on and use every resource we can to shake out those problems and — and push people through at a faster rate.
RITHOLTZ: So — so I’m veering close with that question to the world of politics and the political process. You’re a 501(3)(c) (sic), I believe, so you’re — that’s kind of off-limits, so I’m trying to find a way to ask you a lot of question, which is really so we’re in a very divisive age. Politics is off limits for you, but obviously, everything that’s been going on both with the military and a number of generals, how does your organization deal with that? How do you sidestep questions that often are on everybody’s lips?
KING: Well, you know, honestly (inaudible) to ask a lot of those questions, I mean, because people know who we support and why we support them. And, you know, we support 100 percent of Naval Special Warfare community, which is our SEALs, our SWCC, which is our Special Warfare Combatant-Craft Crewmen, all of the supporting people that go with Naval Special Warfare, you know, and our SEAL and SWCC veterans. So we are not having to make any decisions based on anything that’s going on in the news right now because we know who we support.
And if you’re part of Naval Special Warfare, you’re part of the Navy SEAL Foundation. If you’re a SEAL SWCC, you’re part of the Naval SEAL Foundation. And (inaudible) very clean. It makes it very easy, but it’s — it’s tough right now. And, you know, a lot of groups are struggling. And I just hope that, you know, we see the light soon. I think there’s a lot of things that are — are — a lot of good is happening as well, and we just need to focus on that. And we’re going to keep doing what we’re doing at the Navy SEAL Foundation and supporting these families to the best of our ability.
RITHOLTZ: So — so let’s stick with that topic then because it’s easier to come head on with that. Given all the programs that you folks run, what is the bigger restraint? Is it your capital limitations or is it the number of — let’s just call it worthy targets that you can potentially assist. What — what are the constraints you’re dealing with?
KING: So by worthy targets you mean like constituents, people we help?
KING: You know, I don’t — I don’t feel constrained about it either. If our program growth is happening because we’re reaching more people, that’s fabulous. We’ve built up reserves — continuously reserves to be able to handle that growth if — if something were to sneak up on us
If we, you know, tapped into a — a pocket of veterans that we hadn’t reached previously, that’s a great thing for us, right? And we do or we’re in a constant effort to expand our veteran outreach.
Our planning and budgeting is such. Our program development is such that we just haven’t been in a position to where we — we felt constrained by money. We’re not avoiding a program. We’re not not launching a program because of resource issues. You know, we really feel like we developed a robust set of programs. And identifying a gap is really hard, which is a great thing, right?
KING: And there are also a lot of other organizations that do things. And — and the Navy SEAL Foundation has been focused on not duplicating effort. If, you know, some of our — our great partner organizations, you know, have narrower missions and they’re very good at what they do, we’re going to let them do what they do. We don’t need to come take that over. We want to support that, we want to respect that. And so that’s developed, you know, clean lines for us to continue our program growth and development in the areas that we’ve chosen. So luckily, we don’t feel constrained at all.
RITHOLTZ: And who some of these other organizations that you work with? Is — is there an organization for Army Rangers or Marines or anything like that that performs a similar function? Who else do you …
RITHOLTZ: … work with?
KING: Yeah, absolutely, you know, there’s — there are foundations for, you know, all SOF, and that’s fabulous if they — they get that unique support, I mean, Green Berets, Army Rangers, Marine Raiders.
You know, one of the organizations that we have worked closely with us since the beginning of our development is the Special Operations Warrior Foundation, which supports all SOF, all Special Operations Forces, Gold Star and Surviving Families. Aand, you know, they were kind of a big brother to us when we’re getting started and helped us navigate in the non-profit world. And, you know, we work closely with them still today, and they’re — they’re a great group, and they provide scholarships and educational benefits to our Gold Star children and spouses. So that’s the area that we don’t do.
We are there in case there’s a gap. You know, if the child has exhausted, you know, all of their other resources or if they’re doing a specialized program that may not fall under a different organization umbrella, they were there to pick that up for Naval Special Warfare families. But, you know, a lot of these organizations work well together.
We’ve worked with the Third Option Foundation, which supports our, you know, State Department people. And some of those guys left the SEAL community. You know, we’re talking to the SEAL community and go work for the State Department, so we always work closely on cross-over if we lose, you know, one of those guys in a diplomatic mission. A lot of great organizations out there.
And I think Naval Special Warfare is really lucky and all of SOF is really lucky to have these organizations that work well together and learn from each other. And we’re always happy to work with any other organization to ensure that they have, you know, all the — the great knowledge base that we developed over these 20 years.
RITHOLTZ: And if people want to reach out to the Navy SEAL Foundation either for more information or to make a donation, where’s the best place to do that?
KING: Yeah, absolutely. Our website is navysealfoundation.org, all spelled out. People can always email me. My email is R-K-I-N-G or firstname.lastname@example.org. And, you know, there are phone numbers on the website as well. So we welcome it all.
RITHOLTZ: Fantastic. Robin, what are you streaming these days? Tell us what you’re watching on Netflix or if you’re listening to any podcast. What — what are you doing to stay entertained during a lockdown?
KING: Well, I just finished watching a great Netflix documentary, “How to Fix a Drug Scandal,” really interesting. I am kind of obsessed right now with the criminal justice system to do the podcast (inaudible) “Serial” on the Ohio criminal justice system that I found just unbelievable, learned a lot of great stuff there. And then my guilty pleasure is “Billions.” I’ve been watching “Billions,” and enjoy the heck out of that show.
RITHOLTZ: Yeah, that is a fun one. Tell us a little bit about who your mentors were, who — who helped shape your career both in the world of finance and on the foundation side.
KING: Yeah. Well, I — I grew up in a house where my dad ran his own business, and my mom and dad worked together — together for years. So I learned a lot about running an organization by talking to him. He was incredible.
I’ve had some great board members who really helped me understand how to do this job well. I wouldn’t be where I was without their advice. I don’t know if you want names or not, but (inaudible).
RITHOLTZ: Sure, why not?
KING: Yeah. My first Vice Chairman was D.J. Hailey. He works in New York. He’s an incredible guy and always easy to talk to. And then Jack Daly, another board member who is incredibly successful himself and always willing to share, you know, his wisdom. And, you know, both of these guys would have the hard talk with you and the great talk with you. And I think that’s really important.
RITHOLTZ: Quite interesting. What are you reading these days? Tell us some of your favorite books and — and what is keeping you — your mind occupied.
KING: Yeah. Right now I’m reading “The Ride of a Lifetime,” by Bob Iger, Disney. You know, I worked for Disney for a while, so I find that really interesting. He also was an honorary of the (inaudible) a couple years back, so it’s kind of fun.
An interesting book called “A Woman of No Importance” by Sonia Purnell. It’s a biography of a woman named Virginia Hall who’s an American spy in World War II. A story I didn’t know, and I’m really enjoying that. And (inaudible) anybody who’s into history. I enjoy history. I wouldn’t say I’m a history buff, but I really like historical biographies.
RITHOLTZ: Quite interesting. What — what sort of advice might you give a recent college graduate who was thinking about a career either on the charity public service side or in the military?
KING: I think we got to understand why you want to do it. You know, if you think you want to join the military to, you know, go (inaudible) bad guys (inaudible) the right reason. You know, you got to understand that there’s so much more to it. You know, it’s — it’s a calling. It has to be something that comes from your heart. A lot of people can do the physical part, and I’m really thinking about SEALs, but it’s what’s between your ears and what’s in your heart that are going to make you successful in the military.
When it comes non-profits, kind of the same thing. You know, why do you want to do this? There are sacrifices that go with being in a non-profit and they work for me. You know, I have an incredible staff. Every one of them could be working somewhere else while we’re making a good amount more money, but they love what they do, and they want to be part of this organization. But you — you’ve got to find that right fit. And I think (inaudible) they are really looking for that. They’re really exploring cultures so much more than I know I did when I was 20. So I think that’s great for them.
RITHOLTZ: And our final question, what do you know about the world of foundations, endowments and raising money for a specific cause today that perhaps you wish you knew 20 years ago when the Navy SEAL Foundation was first launched?
KING: I think, you know, the relationships. I think it’s really important to connect, you know, these fabulous people with — with the foundation in the way that they can really get to know and understand this community and making them part of the team that we’ve done so well in the last few years. I don’t think we did that necessarily early on. We didn’t understand our responsibility to the donors in those — in those first years.
And today, we — we know that there what allows us to live in breeze, and they are hugely important. And we want to make sure that they understand what they give us the ability to do. And we hope they feel the pride of being connected to such an incredible community and what I hope they think is an incredible organization in the Navy SEAL Foundation.
RITHOLTZ: Wow, perfect answers. Thank you so much, Robin, for being so generous with your time.
We have been speaking with Robin King. She is the CEO of the Navy SEAL Foundation.
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I’m Barry Ritholtz. You’ve been listening to Masters in Business on Bloomberg Radio.