For Harold Dubrowsky, longtime Detroit Regional Dollars for Scholars (DRDFS) supporter and board member, finding out that he was the 2023 recipient of the organization’s Spark Award came as quite a surprise. The award is given annually to an individual who embodies the DRDFS founding principle of igniting a spark in a student’s interest in education into a passion for their future. It is typically handled by the organization’s Publicity and Recognition Committee—one of many committees that Harold serves on.
“We never discussed it this year, which I thought was a little odd,” he admits.
To anyone familiar with Harold’s work with DRDFS, news that he was the 2023 Spark Award honoree comes as no surprise at all. Harold has been an active supporter of DRDFS for more than a decade and has played an integral role in DRDFS’ evolution into a recognized, respected, and influential regional organization.
He’s someone that DRDFS Executive Advisory Board member Michael Plotzke describes as a “smart, dedicated, and passionate advocate and a steadfast supporter of scholars in our community.”
A native Detroiter, Harold was a CPA when he first met DRDFS Board President Bill Young in 1998. The more he learned about the organization from Bill, the more he wanted to get involved.
“I’ve always been active in not-for-profit organizations, serving on boards and in leadership positions where I could use my skills to help raise money and organize events. When Bill reached out to ask if I was interested in serving on the board and helping DRDFS evolve from a grassroots model to an executive-led, board-driven organization, I saw an opportunity to help.”
And help he did. Working alongside the dedicated DRDFS staff and board members, Harold has had significant influence in helping reshape a group of enthusiastic volunteers into an efficient, committee-led model that drives the growth of an impactful charitable organization. He has helped clarify roles and streamline and improve the DRDFS committee structure, tapping into his professional and charitable resources to help create an executive advisory committee.
Harold has remained heavily involved and continues to dedicate his time and energy to DRDFS. He chairs the Finance Committee and the Next Level Scholars Committee, is a co-chair on the Investment Committee, serves on the Publicity and Recognition and Fundraising committees, and sits on the DRDFS board, where he is a member of the Executive Committee and the DRDFS Treasurer.
Over the past decade, DRDFS has expanded from one to 10 full-time employees and has grown its network of fundraising and financing support to over 100 foundations, corporations, and individuals. Harold has helped DRDFS launch several fundraising programs and grow its savings and net worth to support continued growth in the future.
“I’ve had a front row seat to see this organization evolve from a relatively small startup to an influential regional non-profit that serves 15 high schools,” says Harold. “We are well on our way to reaching our target of 25 schools.”
As gratifying as that growth may be for someone like Harold, the greatest source of his inspiration and passion hasn’t changed.
“It’s 100% the students. They are so engaged and so committed. We talk all the time at DRDFS about the need to inspire, prepare, and succeed, and I see the “inspire” part of that in action all the time. Watching kids transform not just their lives, but their communities by fulfilling their dreams and becoming active and passionate role models for others.”
For Harold, it’s rewarding to help students dream big, envision, and articulate what they want, and help them map out a plan academically and financially to achieve it. But getting the chance to see them go out and do it is the most rewarding part of all—and it continues to inspire him every day.
That inspiration is at the heart of Harold’s pitch to others when explaining why DRDFS matters and why it’s a worthwhile cause to support.
“I talk to people like me all the time who want to give back, and they often ask me how they know which charitable organizations to support. The good news for me is that DRDFS can demonstrate very clearly what we do, how we do it, and what we spend to make it happen. Most compelling of all is that our outcomes are incredible. I’ve been a part of many charitable organizations, and DRDFS is one of the most visible and clearly impactful ROI-driven examples I’ve seen.”
Why does DRDFS make such an impression? According to Harold, it’s because “People get it. They can see it working. And they want to be a part of it. People that come to our events tend to get involved and stay involved, because it’s clear that something special is happening here. We are changing the trajectory of students, families, and communities. Why wouldn’t you want to be a part of something like that?”
For this year’s Spark Award recipient, being a part of it is reward enough. “It’s so gratifying because this organization means so much to me. I’m hardly the only deserving recipient; there are so many influential and selfless and hard-working people that have made this organization what it is today. I’ve never been involved with an organization where I felt the kind of passion, joy, and commitment that I see regularly from everyone who is a part of DRDFS. And I’m so proud to count myself among them.”