Jennifer Templeman is the Chief Financial Officer at Jumpstart.
Whenever I have the opportunity to talk to business majors I like to point out the benefits of working in a non-profit. Last month, after giving what I thought was a powerful reflection on the satisfaction one gets from making a difference in the lives of others, I received the following question from the audience, “Doesn’t it make more sense to apply your background in a bigger corporation or firm and then donate to the non-profit that you want to support?”
I’ve received various versions of this question through the years as I’ve continued to make a career out of non-profit financial management. Twenty years ago I began on this path and it has never once occurred to me that working at a for-profit business might allow me to do more good for the communities I’ve lived in.
When my oldest son began school, I was invited as a guest to provide some math activities as a special fun afternoon for his class. As I went through my games, I realized the teacher had pulled three children to a table at the back and was working with them instead of allowing them to participate. Assuming they were in some kind of trouble I asked the teacher what they had done to deserve being removed from the entertainment and she told me they hadn’t misbehaved, they just needed more attention because they didn’t have some of the skills the rest of the class had already developed. They were behind in their letter recognition, couldn’t write or distinguish their names, and without this intense work, they would not be able to keep up with the pace of the class. For years the look of those three children in the back of the classroom, tracing letters on worksheets and sneaking a peak at what we were doing haunted me.
Several years later, I was invited to interview at Jumpstart. Someone explained the work that was being done to ensure no child began kindergarten without the skills they needed to succeed in school and I knew I had to be a part of this. I’d finally found a way to do something for those children…and the thousands just like them.
I spend time poring over financial statements, performing analysis and running scenarios and projections. I look for efficiencies, review compliance statements and write policy and procedure manuals. It probably sounds like a dull day at the office to a lot of readers, but to me, every task I complete, every dollar I can steward so that more of it goes directly to programming means I’m making a difference in the lives of children. Compounding my efforts over days, weeks and years means that I have played a role – albeit in the background – in bringing Jumpstart to thousands of preschoolers.
So, when I’m asked why I stay in the non-profit field instead of going after the lure and appeal of corporate work, I say I do it for the children. I do it because if I don’t, then who will? I do it because if I do my job well, then I am changing the future of countless children and giving them a chance to be whatever they want to be in life. There is nothing a paycheck or a fancy office can give me that is worth more than that.