Staff Spotlight: Rob Smith

Meet American Bible Society’s Director of Gift Planning

This is part of a series of staff spotlights at American Bible Society. We hope you enjoy getting to know our staff members, who are using their gifts to advance the gospel of Jesus Christ around the world.

Today, meet Rob Smith, who serves as the director of Gift Planning at American Bible Society. In this role, Rob leads the Gift Planning team to help faithful Christian financial partners make creative, tax-wise gifts to build God’s kingdom around the world through Bible ministry.

Tell us a little about yourself!

I’ve been married to my wife, Tracy, for 36 years. We have three children and five granddaughters. I became a Christian when I was 16, and I’ve been seeking to serve Christ ever since. It’s been a blessing to have a wonderful Christian family. Our children are believers and are raising their children to love the Lord. It’s also an honor to be known as a husband, dad, and grandpa—or, as my granddaughters call me, Papa Rob.

What did you do before coming to American Bible Society?

I grew up on a cattle farm, and my dad, brother, and I did logging as well. It was a very agricultural, blue-collar background. My parents didn’t have much education at all, but I was able to go to high school and college. After I graduated college, I had about nine different careers in my 20s! I worked as a Walmart manager, a Chinese restaurant manager, a wholesale food salesman, a real estate salesman and appraiser, a loan officer, and a financial planner. That’s when I came to understand charitable estate planning and realized that it was what I was called to do.

I got started in gift planning at the University of Missouri and then moved to The Salvation Army. I worked there for about eight years. During that time, I gained some wonderful contacts as well as great training and education on gift planning principles. Eventually, my mentor at The Salvation Army left to become the director of Gift Planning at American Bible Society. We worked so well together that he wanted me to come with him. So after some prayer and research, I did!

I started as a regional advisor, then national field supervisor, and then as the leader of the central fundraising team in the field. Since fall 2014, I’ve served as the national director of Gift Planning—the same role my mentor had when I arrived at American Bible Society nearly 25 years ago! I love this work, and I really see it as my calling.

Can you describe your role and responsibilities?

As director of Gift Planning, I lead the Gift Planning team, which includes my colleagues Melinda Trine, Patricia Nduati, Dan Dorrill, and Dan Leeman. We’re a small team, but we are efficient, experienced, and effective. Working together, we have been able to raise as much or more funds than we did when we were a larger team.

My responsibilities include working alongside Melinda to oversee Gift Planning marketing, traveling to visit donors, supporting regional advisors in the field, and directing training and support for my team. I also participate in management meetings and try to be a good leader in our department. It’s the dream job I always wanted when I started. I really love my team and I love the work I do, and I hope we can help make a big impact for God’s kingdom.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I love serving our donors! Our donors give because God calls them to give. They are stewards of God’s resources that he has entrusted to them. To me, it feels like walking on holy ground when I help donors decide how to share what God has put on their hearts to give. So often donors feel stuck because they feel God calling them to give a certain amount or asset, but they don’t see a way to do it without losing the income and stability they need. They feel like they can’t do what God wants them to do. But then we tell them about Gift Planning options like the charitable gift annuity or charitable trust, which can increase their income during their lifetimes, give them tax benefits, and help them make their gift! Our donors are amazed that they can give so generously while also keeping the resources they need to provide for themselves and their families.

In addition, I always say that we get to work with the nicest, most loving people in the world. Our donors truly are amazing. There have been so many times when donors have given me spiritual advice or prayed for me. They’re mature, caring, and so generous.

What do you enjoy about working at American Bible Society?

I’ve told donors many times, “I can’t imagine what I could do with my life that would be better than providing God’s Word all over the world.” That’s what keeps me going—that foundational Bible ministry that American Bible Society provides. Through my work with our donors, I’ve been blessed to see some of the most significant donor relationships mature and bear fruit. I’ve worked with people for close to a decade before they gave a single gift. But those same donors became instrumental in ministry that is happening now, like the illumiNations movement. Just guiding those relationships and seeing how it transforms Bible ministry around the world has been an honor.

Would you share your favorite Bible verse with us?

Habakkuk 2:14 (KJV) is the Scripture verse that has grounded American Bible Society’s vision for the past 200 years, but it’s also significant for me:

For the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.

During my time at American Bible Society, I’ve been able to see this verse in action. I’ve traveled to many countries with donors. It’s humbling to witness people receiving the Word of God for the first time. I remember one church in China where people hugged the Bibles to their chests and wept with joy. There wasn’t a dry eye in the whole church. That was about 13 years ago, but I still have trouble talking about it without getting emotional. It impacted me and the donors who were with me tremendously. Today, I still tell that story to donors. They can’t all travel to China, Cambodia, Vietnam, or Turkey, but the fact that I’m able to tell stories of what their gift is doing really helps to convey the message. It allows them to see how they are changing lives when they follow God’s call to give.

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Elisabeth Trefsgar
Elisabeth Trefsgar

Elisabeth Trefsgar is a content specialist for American Bible Society. She has made a home in New Jersey and Sofia, Bulgaria, and is always on the lookout for the next adventure. She is passionate about seeing communities around the world flourish through the power of God's Word and the efforts of the local church. When she isn't writing, you can find her reading good stories, photographing local sights, and spending time with friends.

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