High on the Higg
By Scott Nishimura
Photography by Olaf Growald
Higginbotham celebrates its diamond anniversary in style, plunking down $440,000 for the Fort Worth Stock Show’s grand champion steer
It was a huge idea. Higginbotham, the 75-year-old commercial insurance, financial and human resources agency in Fort Worth, was looking for ways to kick off a yearlong birthday celebration when a managing director came up with the winner.
The idea: pool donations from employees, throw in a gift from the employee-funded Higginbotham Community Fund and bid on the grand champion steer at the annual Fort Worth Stock Show Syndicate’s Junior Sale of Champions, benefiting youth who exhibit the nearly 300 steers, pigs, lambs and goats at the shows.
As many as 20 Higginbotham employees, led by managing director William Blanchard, a member of the Stock Show Syndicate — the largest of the nonprofit groups that recruits bidders for the annual sale — gave a total $340,000. The Community Fund, which has made $5 million in donations to 1,871 charities since its founding in 2011, gave an additional $100,000.
“One hundred percent of the proceeds go to these young people for scholarship programs,” Rusty Reid, Higginbotham’s CEO, said in an interview. “What a perfect way to kick off the year.”
Going into the auction in February, the Higginbotham team, led by Blanchard, didn’t know if its $440,000 would be enough, Reid said. The group ultimately outbid the Women Steering Business group — formed 10 years ago to bid on champion steers exhibited by girls at the Stock Show — to buy the 1,343-pound Snoop Dog, shown by teenager Sadie Wampler of Canyon, near Amarillo. The $440,000 easily beat 2022’s record of $310,000 for the grand champion steer.
Higginbotham opened the year and birthday celebration with a reception for nonprofits. The milestone also will be marked at its annual leadership conference in April in Fort Worth, where 700 employees will volunteer with 12 nonprofits. The agency has deep roots in the city, having been founded by Paul Higginbotham in 1948 in a small office on Race Street in the Riverside area.
“We’re building a number of houses for Habitat and dedicating the entire day to giving back to our community,” Reid said of the April 27 volunteer event. “The year has been all about celebrating Fort Worth, celebrating the heritage of Fort Worth.”
Later in the year, Higginbotham plans to host a luncheon with a guest speaker to benefit a cause, and it’s also working on ideas for a “grand finale” to the year, Reid said.
The agency, owned by its 2,500 employees in 86 offices in Texas and 13 states, started the Higginbotham Community Fund after an employee, Tracy Jackson, proposed the idea.
“She said, ‘I want to give money through Higginbotham,’ and wanted to give directly to a charity of her choosing,” said Reid, who joined the agency in 1986.
Employees can make pretax gifts via payroll deduction to the Community Fund, as well as one-time gifts, and Reid makes an ask to senior partners at the annual leadership conference.
“This isn’t a high-pressure sale,” he said of the employee contributions. “It’s been very much a grassroots effort by our employees [that shows] how much they care about the markets they’re in.”
The fund last year gave $1 million to charities in its local markets, Reid said.
“It’s turned out to be an incredible vehicle,” he said. “We want to give out almost as much as comes in. Our outreach is so important to what we stand for.”