December 5, 2019
Disney’s, The Lion King taught us some valuable life lessons at an early age. The film is where many of us first learned about the circle of life, our role on this planet, and what we can achieve when we allow courage, strength, and wisdom to drive our beliefs, so we don’t stray too far away from them.
Corporate Engagement Manager Brandon Cobb never admitted he had the heart of a lion when we sat down and interviewed him for this month’s employee spotlight, but if there’s one employee who epitomizes the king of the jungle, it’s B-Cobb.
In fact, his life motto, Esse Quam Videri, Latin for “to be, rather than to appear,” has surrounded him with an extensive network of teammates and friends that appreciate the presence he brings to any environment. The phrase also happens to be the motto of North Carolina, his home state.
And even after three successful years with United Way of Central Indiana, he’s always been a lifelong learner, a trait he proudly considers one of his greatest assets. But perhaps one of Cobb’s most telling traits is his empathy – something he harnessed during his time as a donor representative at Christian humanitarian organization, Samaritan’s Purse. A three-year assignment with the faith-based nonprofit took him to Nicaragua for three years, where he served as a language correspondent.
“I’ve seen poverty from a third world lens,” he told us. “I’ve seen what it’s done to families in areas where relief programs and resources don’t exist. It’s doesn’t take much to see where the needs lie when you know where to look.”
With an academic career rooted in religious studies and anthropology, Cobb quickly embraced the Nicaraguan culture and language, absorbing everything from the community’s needs to fluency in Spanish. That knack for knowledge followed him into his first role with the organization as an associate before assuming his current position, where he’s responsible for maintaining relationships with ten major accounts across United Way’s six-county region.
For Cobb, being a fundraiser isn’t just about hitting a number, it’s about the donor and what the company’s engagement goals are. With every interaction he has, whether they’re with an individual or a CEO, Cobb removes himself from the equation to concentrate on how he can be the best steward between their dollars and United Way’s impact. He credits several of his leaders and teammates for this approach, including Chief Fundraising Officer Penny Lee.
“Penny is the barometer that helps us understand everything from the big picture down to the smallest detail,” he told us. “It inspires and encourages all of us to look beyond ourselves.”
It was no surprise to discover Cobb’s success has also been largely driven by his effective communication skills, citing the importance of being able to adequately articulate United Way’s mission as the convener between service providers and the populations they serve. But we could tell that his competitive edge and dominant personality might be a close second – something he’s grown to embrace.
“I don’t like to lose,” he told us with some laughter in his voice – the same laughter he had when he was presented with the “High Intensity” award as a valuable teammate for a work league kickball team last summer. And it’s that trifecta of his passion, purpose, and pride as a United Way employee that has kept him having fun winning – in all aspects of life.
The Lion King’s infamous baboon, Rafiki, may have been the first to say that any story worth telling is worth telling twice, but thanks to Cobb, now we can all revisit one that serves as a reminder to remember who we are – a lesson passed down from one lion to another.
“Your why is a biproduct of the problem,” he shared. “When I wake up and go to work every day, I always see someone in my head – whether it’s a homeless person I remember on the street or a family who is struggling financially. That’s what drives the work I do.”