Transitioning To The Non-Profit World

Three events changed Andy Kaplan’s life.

Andy Kaplan

Twenty years ago, working for Time-Life, he volunteered for their after-school tutoring program.  He felt tremendous excitement for his young charges — and for his contributions to their successes.

Traveling on business in Rio de Janeiro, he saw a large group of kids playing late at night on a beach.  The reason:  They were homeless.

Later, in Mumbai, he saw dozens of men sleeping on the street.

Those 3 events impelled the Westporter to do what he could to create change in the world.

At 52, Andy searched for a non-profit organization where his “tool kit” — financial management — would help.

He found DonorsChoose.org — a website that connects people with classrooms across America.  Teachers post wish lists; users find 1 or more that speak to them, then donate part or all of the funds needed.

Teachers take photos of how the project turned out; students write thank-yous.

“It’s a virtuous organization,” Andy says.  That’s an understatement:  Last year $23 million was raised.  Over 1 million students were  impacted.

Andy plays a crucial role in DonorsChoose.org — he’s now the CFO.

He’s not the only Westporter who has moved from a high-powered position in the go-go business world, to an equally important (but very different) role with a non-profit.

Jeff Weiser, for example, traded his international banker’s pinstripes for a job in local supportive housing.  He now runs Homes With Hope.

However, the number is not large.  It can be “tough to make the leap to a smaller playing field,” Andy notes.

The rewards are great.  Tom Tierney, a leader in the non-profit sector, characterized the shift from the corporate world as “moving from success to signifance.”

Andy sees several similarites with his earlier corporate life.  “I’m working with terrific people,” he says.  “I use my business skills.  I have a scorecard of results, based upon metrics and money.  And I’m working to achieve aggressive growth targets.”

There are, he conceded, some differences.

“Rather than building a profitable business to serve a market need, we’re building a social enterprise to serve a human need,” he says.  That need is improving education in public schools.

In addition, “rather than simply selling something to a customer, we’re creating a ‘marketplace’ where we link donors with classrooms in need.”

And, Andy adds, one major measure of success is “students served” — not earnings per share.

What a way to share your talents and dreams — and make a difference in the world.

(Click here — then scroll down — for a video clip of Andy on CNBC, talking about DonorsChoose.)

4 responses to “Transitioning To The Non-Profit World

  1. Congrats to Andy and Jeff for your good works.
    Woog readers may find interesting the speech by a middle school student … in the following video –

  2. Thank you Andy for your work.

  3. Magnificent.