If you ever looked at my resume, Next Jump might seem like the odd one out, given it’s the only for profit organization on the list. As a kid my parents raised me to spend my free time volunteering. We spent weekends as family doing fire clean-ups or leading vacation bible school at our church. Both of my parents came from very humble beginnings. My father is a first generation American who grew up knowing what it was like to have very little. He worked three jobs to put himself through college and anything my family has now is a byproduct of his hard work and sacrifice. I think because of this my parents raised me to believe that it’s more important what you do with your time and how you help people than if you’re rewarded or paid well. It’s easy to say nonprofit life was instilled in me at an early age.
From the moment I took my first job I worked solely for non profits. I worked for my church, I was the director of a student run non profit in college and I spent my summers working for a nonprofit on Native American reservations. Before coming to Next Jump in January, I was working in DC, living on food stamps. The job was set up to make the employees live below the poverty line to experience the lives of the people our organization was helping. Commitment to the cause had taken a whole new meaning.
So why Next Jump? Why switch to a for profit company? These are questions I have been continually asked since I accepted this job. It would be easy to assume, like so many people in my life did, that it was for the money. Now I won’t lie, it was enticing. Who wouldn’t want to go from counting pennies to a salaried job? And it was because of this that I was initially ashamed to tell some of the people in my life that I was taking this job. I didn’t know how to explain going from making well under a $1000 a month to a 401K. However money wasn’t the reason I came to Next Jump. The more I thought about it, the more I realized I was making the right decision. If there was one thing I learned from non profits, is that while they have huge hearts that continue to give, they often fail to make the sustainable changes they work for. It’s not for a lack of effort or commitment; it’s a lack of power. It’s the one true advantage for profit companies have over non profits. It won’t be until the companies that have the power begin to care about the people that work for them and the people the serve that change can come about. Until this happens, how can non profits have their desired effect? They need the support of larger companies to care and make sustainable changes.
It is because of this that I came to Next Jump, a company that is trying to change the way other companies run. As I like to describe it to my friends, it’s a company with business smarts but a non profit’s heart. They’ve engrained this philosophy into the purpose of the company. Next Jump’s WHY – or the reason for existing – is “to do the little things that allow others to do the great things they are meant to do.” Essentially, this means using the advantages they have to help improve the lives of others. Next Jump do that through the belief that a ‘Better Me’ + ‘Better You’ = ‘Better Us’ – or a better community as a whole.
In reality, this means developing their employees to reach their potential (focusing both on strengths and weaknesses); using the e-commerce platform they’ve built to donate a profit of each sale to help fund technology in inner city schools; employees opting to give 10% of their paychecks to hourly employees affected by Hurricane Sandy through the Forgotten Ones or buying Christmas gifts through Vendor Appreciation Day for postmen, cleaners, repairmen and other vendors that support us on a daily basis. Plus a long list of other initiatives.
One of the first things I heard and now one of my favorite things about Next Jump was Code for a Cause (CFAC). CFAC takes some of Next Jump’s best and brightest engineers and matches them up with a nonprofit that needs help with web and mobile technologies. By leveraging the strength of their engineering force to create a sustainable solution for a nonprofit, Next Jump is able to hit on two major influencers in creating a new business model for companies. First CFAC gives employees a sense of purpose which allows them to work in a for profit while still feeling like they are able to contribute to causes they care about. Secondly it gives the power back to the nonprofit, as they now have the technological advantages of a for profit which allows them to create and do things they were unable to do before.
When a company has the funds, resources, and desire to help people, that’s when change can happen. But it has to be more than that. The desire to do well by others has to come from some place sincere. If you’re helping people for the sake of looking good, you’re not invested, change won’t come. However if you’re willing to put your business on the line and invest your employees and their time, then you’re saying this is what we care about, this is a priority to us, then we can actually make a difference. Next Jump has continually shown that caring about the people around you is no longer limited to non profits. So why am I at Next Jump? I took the risk that bettering me by taking this job would allow me to do the work to better you in the hopes that someday we’ll have a better us.