Two Experts Lost

November 17, 2016       Andy Segedin and Mark Hrywna      

Julie Floch, Herschell Gordon Lewis changed charities

The charitable sector lost two boldfaced names this past month, with the deaths within days of Julie Floch, a leader in nonprofit accounting and finance and Herschell Gordon Lewis, a direct response marketing and fundraising expert.

Floch, 55, died Sept. 23 after a years-long battle with cancer. She was the partner in charge of accounting and consulting at EisnerAmper’s Not-For-Profit-Services Group and served on the board of a wide array of local and national organizations, helping to shape nonprofit accounting and transparency.

Floch’s passing was immediately felt within the sector, according to Karin Kunstler Goldman, deputy bureau chief of the New York State Attorney General’s Charities Bureau.

“In the past few days my email box has been full of tributes to Julie Floch,” she said. “Most striking has been acknowledgment of her dedication to the nonprofit sector and her support of charity regulators. During the many years I knew Julie I had the good fortune to work with her countless times on educational programs for the nonprofit sector. Her willingness to share her knowledge and time is legendary.”

Floch was a regular speaker at National Association of State Charity Officials (NASCO) conferences. Her presentations were often the annual conference’s highlight, according to Goldman. Even during her seven-year battle with cancer, Floch wouldn’t miss a meeting or a phone call and never turned down a speaking invitation. “When I saw her about a week before she died, Julie said that she would see me at NASCO this year,” Goldman said. “I’m sure she will be there in spirit.”

She was a board member at Independent Sector, recruited by then-CEO Diana Aviv. Now chief executive officer at Feeding America, Aviv described her as a kind person who will be remembered with admiration and affection. “Julie’s positive view of the world permeated the way she helped others and gave to the charitable sector to make us stronger, more accountable and more effective,” said Aviv. “No deed was too mighty or small for her to undertake.”

Many people in the sector described Floch in similarly superlative terms – noting her kind demeanor, intellect and generosity. Cheryl Olson, CGMA, director of not-for-profit consulting at Clark Nuber and former director of council financial counseling for Girls Scouts of the USA, credited Floch with helping her feel connected within the New York nonprofit community. Floch was one of the first people Olson met through the New York State Society of CPAs after moving to New York City from Portland, Ore., and the two became friends.

“She was always willing to teach, support and empower,” Olson said. “Her friendship, humor, intellect, and just plain awesomeness will be missed.”

Floch, too, made an impression on Chris Cole, senior technical manager at the American Institute of Certified Public Accountant’s (AICPA) Not-for-Profit Section. Floch was one of the first people Cole met upon joining AICPA and “she made an immediate impression on me, and my respect for her only grew over time,” said Cole.

Floch had formerly served as a member of AICPA’s Not-forProfit Expert Panel. She was chairing the Not-for-Profit Advisory Council of the AICPA Member Section at the time of her passing and was known for being “caring, conscientious and intelligent,” Cole said.

“Julie Floch was a terrific professional and a wonderful person,” added Jeff Mechanick, assistant director of Nonpublic Entities at the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB), where Floch served on the Financial Statements of Not-for-Profit Entities Resource Group. “She was always so helpful to her clients and her colleagues in the not-for-profit sector, including the other staff and I at the FASB. We will miss her very much.”

Seth Perlman, senior partner at Perlman and Perlman LLP., knew Floch for 20 years. The two co-chaired a practicing law seminar and would often consult each other regarding various clients. “She was just this petite – always energetic, always smiling, always generous – person,” Perlman said. “She was really one of the nicest people I ever met in my life.”

Among Floch’s greatest contributions to the sector was her work as part of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Liaison Committee – helping to develop the new Form 990 to be efficient and not overreaching, according to Perlman.

“Julie was one of the great thought leaders in the nonprofit space,” he said. “She was an accounting professional, but she transcended the accounting profession and was a force in the field of philanthropy.”

Stephen Heintz, president of Rockefeller Brothers Fund, also touted Floch’s leadership and expertise in financial management and her work in improving the health and vitality of the sector. “Her devotion to the sector reflected her exceptional personal qualities – compassion, generosity and profound humanity,” he said. “Throughout the years of her battle with cancer, despite her own needs, she never wavered in her care for others.”

Robert Vanni got to know Floch through his work facilitating the Nonprofit Coordinating Committee of New York’s (NPCCNY) government affairs committee – where Floch served for at least 10 years.

Among Floch’s best skills was her ability to translate complex, sometimes arcane, accounting principles into easily digestible information. Vanni and others would look to Floch to track the statuses of various initiatives and to see what was coming down the pike. “She was a stalwart in the nonprofit community,” he said. “She was a great colleague and, in my case, a great teacher.”

That ability to be engaging while conveying complicated information into simple terms was seen firsthand at The NonProfit Times. The publishing company was involved with Professor Burnis Morris, who had a Knight Foundation grant at the University of Mississippi in Oxford, Miss. and then Marshall University in Huntington, W.V.

“It was to teach consumer press reporters about charitable financial statements and other issues,” recalls Paul Clolery, vice president and editorial director at NPT Publishing Group. “I somehow talked Julie and Karin Goldman into going to Oxford, Mississippi. The closest major airport is two hours away by car in Memphis, Tennessee. Julie stole the show. Her ability to communicate complicated financial information in a manner anyone would be able to understand was just startling.”

Herschell Gordon Lewis appears to have lived several lives, as a teacher, a direct marketer and a movie director. Considered the “Godfather of Gore” as well as the “Godfather of Direct Marketing,” he died Sept. 26 from congestive heart failure. He was 87.

An avid tennis player and scuba diver, Lewis was a member of the Direct Marketing Association Hall of Fame. News of his death briefly cracked the top 10 topics trending on Twitter. He wrote a column on direct response fundraising for The NonProfit Times for more than a decade.

Lewis is remembered as a pioneer of campy schlock horror, with seminal movies like “A Taste of Blood,” “Gore Gore Girls,” and “She-Devils On Wheels.” His 1963 movie “Blood Feast” is considered “the horror genre’s first splatter film,” according to Variety magazine.

Lewis is credited with 37 films in all, some under the name H. Lewis Gordon. All but two of his films were made between 1961 and 1972. He was considered a precursor to grindhouse filmmakers like Tobe Hooper (“Texas Chainsaw Massacre”), Sam Raimi (“Evil Dead”) and Quentin Tarantino. His last film was “The Uh Ho! Show” in 2009.

Lewis also was a prolific writer, penning columns about direct marketing, fundraising and copy writing for a number of publications. He continued to consult on direct marketing through his firm, Lewis Enterprises in Pompano Beach, Fla.

Among his clients over the years were 1-800-Flowers and Omaha Steaks. Lewis met with client a few days before his death. “Dad was as sharp as ever right to the end,” said his son Bob Lewis. While the death was not immediately expected, he had been in failing health and was frail, Bob Lewis said.

Lewis’s wife of 37 years, Margo, said that he had three damaged heart valves. “He died peacefully without pain,” she said. He had been dependent on a walker and scooter for the past few years, which took him away from tennis and made him “very unhappy,” Margo Lewis said.

He was the author of 32 books, including “Internet Marketing Tips, Tricks and Tactics,” “On the Art of Writing Copy,” “Asinine Advertising,” “Burnt Offerings,” and “Creative Rules for the 21st Century.” He also taught college literature and produced and directed television commercials.

Lewis was former chairman of Communicamp, a full-serve direct marketing agency, that became a division of Interpublic, an advertising holding company.

Born on June 15, 1929 in Pittsburgh, Pa., Lewis earned a master’s degree in journalism at Northwestern University. He was an adjunct lecturer to graduate classes in mass communications for 20 years at Roosevelt University in Chicago.