David Campbell: From Tech Titan to Aid Chief

Shortly after the December 2004 earthquake and tsunami ravaged Southeast Asia, retired technology executive David N. Campbell left his Carlisle home and flew to Thailand to see what he could do to help. A year later, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, he founded All Hands Volunteers, Inc., a nonprofit whose goal is bring immediate, sustainable relief to communities in need.


“It’s not easy for individuals to figure out how they can go and help after a disaster,” Mr. Campbell said recently. “We set out to make it easy.” After his experience in Thailand, he determined to use the power of technology to organize well-intentioned but often unskilled people for emergency response.  To date, All Hands has matched 17,500 volunteers with 42 projects around the world.

As with all nonprofits, All Hands relies heavily on the generosity of donors, and so Mr. Campbell created a Designated Fund at the Boston Foundation to build up an endowment and make grants to the charity. He established the fund in 2012 with a substantial gift of publicly traded securities, a tax-efficient move that allows donors to deduct the market value of the gift without paying capital gains taxes. The Boston Foundation then sells the stock tax-free and deposits the proceeds in the Donor Advised Fund.

“Gifting stock was a natural strategy,” said Mr. Campbell, who was president of BBN’s Systems and Technologies Division in Cambridge and before that, the chairman and CEO of Computer Task Group in Buffalo, N.Y.

“When we got exposed to the Boston Foundation and the ease of using a DAF we decided to eliminate the private family foundation and move the funds to a DAF,” he explained. “We’ve been doing our giving from a DAF ever since.”

Mr. Campbell and his wife Gay also have a DAF for their personal charitable giving, which they set up in 2003 after liquidating a family foundation.  He said he was attracted to the foundation’s civic leadership role as well as initiatives like the Haiti Fund, which has provided $2.1 million in aid since it was started by Boston Foundation donors Jim and Karen Ansara after the earthquake in 2010. “The fact that TBF is there to allow people to launch these special-purpose funds is very effective,” he said.

For more information about All Hands, see Mr. Campbell’s TEDx  talk.