Spreading the LOVE
Nina Magnesson leads BoomTown’s philanthropic efforts throughout Charleston
By HOLLY FISHER
Both her parents are contemporary fine arts painters in New Orleans. After moving to Charleston, Nina Magnesson discovered she was a direct descendent of Dr. Henry Woodward, the first British colonist of colonial South Carolina.
Bachelor of fine arts at SUNY, Purchase College
On a November Thursday, Nina Magnesson attended the Association of Fundraising Professionals National Philanthropy Day luncheon. Then she hurried off to the Lowcountry Land Trust Flourish Conference. That night, she had the first meeting of the City of Charleston’s Bicycle & Pedestrian Committee. All the while, she’s thinking about how to get the soil tilled for a garden project at the Joseph Floyd Manor coming up on Trident United Way’s Day of Caring.
That’s a fairly typical day for Magnesson, the catalyst for Citizenship & Social Innovation Initiatives at BoomTown, a web-based software company specializing in end-to-end marketing solutions for real estate.
BoomTown’s philanthropic efforts in the Charleston community run deep and that’s thanks to Magnesson, who’s grown the company’s involvement in giving back, quality of life initiatives and—as her title aptly says—made BoomTown a real catalyst for corporate citizenship.
Prior to moving to Charleston in 2012, Magnesson worked at an architectural firm in New York City—first as an executive assistant and then as a member of the marketing team. The firm, Cooper Robertson & Partners, had worked on the master plan for Daniel Island and Riley Waterfront Park. So, Magnesson was eager to visit Charleston and see what made the city so special.
She discovered the quality of life in Charleston was exactly what she wanted, so she packed her bags and headed south. “It was the best decision I’ve ever made in my entire life,” Magnesson said.
Her bosses from the architectural firm introduced her to people like former Charleston Mayor Joe Riley, marketing executive David Rawle and others who, in true Charleston fashion, were kind, welcoming and willing to open doors.
A New Opportunity
Magnesson was interested in development work for nonprofits and lined up an interview at the Historic Charleston Foundation. Then she got an email “from this funky little company called BoomTown.” She went through the company’s extensive interview process and was hired as the first executive assistant to Grier Allen, co-founder and CEO of BoomTown. Magnesson was the 70th employee in a company that now has 275, as well as a spacious new headquarters on upper King Street, part of the Pacific Box & Crate development.
“It wasn’t necessarily my ambition,” Magnesson said of her executive assistant role. “But I loved Grier and BoomTown so much that I was thrilled at the opportunity.”
Convinced he didn’t need an executive assistant, Allen wasn’t exactly sure what to do with newfound help, Magnesson recalled. To take some of the load off Allen’s plate, Magnesson offered to attend community meetings, charity functions and other philanthropic events on his behalf to represent BoomTown.
She divided her time between being an executive assistant and a community liaison, but as BoomTown grew, its philanthropic efforts began to expand from simply a couple of fundraisers or volunteer events each year.
“My role had become something that could stand alone,” she said.
Charleston’s Leading Catalyst
Today, Magnesson remains the public face of BoomTown in Charleston. She oversees the company’s BoomTownLOVE efforts, which are largely driven by employee interest and engagement. She sits on various boards and committees representing the company as well as the needs of Charleston’s growing base of tech workers.
Magnesson is a part of the Upper Peninsula neighborhood council made up of a diverse blend of community leaders focused on helping people navigate this developing part of Charleston’s Neck area by mapping out the businesses, restaurants and public transportation options.
“There’s a real interest right here and now in making sure we invest in our community and integrate the tech companies with the residents who inhabit the community already, so we can build more living equity,” Magnesson said.
One way to build that equity is by starting with the next generation of tech workers. Magnesson helped start CodeON, which teaches children 4 to 17 the fundamentals of technology and coding using Google and Code.org curriculum. The program was born out of Charleston in Women Tech, which BoomTown supported early as the first corporate sponsor.
Now more than 1,500 members strong, Charleston Women in Tech’s mission is to connect, support and prepare women of all ages for careers in technology. Magnesson is chair of the board.
She’s also involved in public transportation and quality of life initiatives that allows companies like BoomTown to continue to attract the best talent.
“I’m a representative of the tech employee and what it is that talent pool values,” she said. “And alternative ways of transportation are a huge piece.”
This explains Magnesson’s schedule –packed with committee meetings and events. She’s also filtering through requests from employees who want to organize a BoomTownLOVE volunteer event or fundraiser. Plus, she receives another 20 emails a month from members of the community asking BoomTown for sponsorships, volunteers or support.
Relying on Core Values
One of Magnesson’s hardest jobs is saying “no.” While the company tries to support as many initiatives as possible, its staff time and dollars do have a limit. When she faces a tough decision, she refers to BoomTown’s 10 core values, which include “create amazing experiences,” “do the right thing,” “spread some laughter and have fun” and “go for it.”
“If I’m not sure about something, I can always reference the core values,” Magnesson said. “Does this fall into those core values? If not, then it’s not something we’re going to do.”
All this doing good for the community is both incredibly rewarding and a little exhausting. Magnesson turns off her phone in the evenings and makes sure she schedules some serious downtime doing yoga or spending time on the water. “I reserve my energy for family and friends who might need support,” she said.
She recently bought at house in Park Circle, so she’s close to BoomTown and the neighborhood where she gives so much of her time and professional expertise. Not every project is a win, but Magnesson knows progress is being made. It’s a compilation of both big and small successes—a new garden at the retirement community, teaching children coding or helping the city craft a better bike plan.
“Are you making a difference? Are you really helping? I think everyone feels that way. But at the end of the day, I turn around and say, ‘Gee whiz, we have all worked so hard.’ And it’s working, it’s really working,” Magnesson said. “It’s not something I take as my own personal accomplishment. I feel lucky and blessed to be able to show up every day and help try to solve some problems.”