This post is part of a series that highlights Cambia’s unique Executive Board Placement program, which works to match company employees with nonprofit organizations looking to grow their board of directors. A key part of the company’s Corporate Social Responsibility approach to giving, the board placement program has become one of the most impactful ways Cambia strengthens local communities and supports employees in their own volunteerism. Through the board placement program, and the corresponding funding that complements an employee’s board service, Cambia supports employees to serve the greater good.
Friends of the Children (FOTC) is an international nonprofit organization that selects and invites at-risk youth to be paired, from as early as age 4 through high school graduation, with a paid, professional mentor called a Friend. Their model is evidence-informed, research-based and the long-term outcomes prove it works. For Jennifer Danielson, board member and Cambia’s Senior Vice President, Public Affairs and Policy, it’s an opportunity to give back in way that can create generational and last change.
Why did you get involved with FOTC Utah?
I was introduced to FOTC by my colleague, Peggy Maguire, President Cambia Health Foundation; Corporate Social Responsibility and Palliative Care Solutions, who served on the Friends-PDX board and is now a board member for FOTC at the national level.
For me, the FOTC model is a perfect example of what it means to serve people as individuals, see them as a “whole person,” and work to address challenges that impact their health (and their education, economic status, etc.). I’m also involved with FOTC because I’m a Utahn! I’ve had many roles with Cambia that have an external focus in helping to advance our cause. As soon as I heard about the FOTC model from Peggy, I KNEW that this solution was something our state needed.
What do you do as a Board member?
I was in the unique position to serve as a board member for this nonprofit as they launch a chapter in Salt Lake City. Together, we started from scratch to expand this organization’s impact to Utah, with the significant backbone of support from our regional health plan, and FOTC national.
First, we introduced FOTC to key Utah leaders, mapped out how we would work with other local organizations, and created connections for fundraising and a smooth launch. Within a year, we met our launch fundraising goal and began implementation of the program.
- We secured space for a clubhouse, chose our first community and school district partners and with the broader Cambia support furnished the office.
- We hired an executive director, Sandi Pershing who then hired an operations team and the actual FRIENDS (mentors who will serve children in the program).
- With assistance from key community organizations like The Children’s Center, we identified the first cohort of kindergarten-age kids for the program and we were off to the races.
The whole process was a perfect blend of needing to understand the business, philanthropic, political and policy worlds in Utah. It was a really fun project for me – personally and professionally. Currently, the board is looking at our 2021 strategic plan and setting fundraising goals that will then allow for us to expand the number of kids we can serve.
Have you seen the impact that the organization’s work is having on the community?
Since FOTC is new in Utah, we haven’t seen direct benefits yet, but the positive response has been significant. We’ve had referrals for more children than we can currently serve and look forward to expanding to meet that need.
However, based on the long-standing results of FOTC chapters elsewhere, we know: Every $1 invested saves an additional $7 in terms of the public expense required to address chronic issues among our youth. Positive outcomes achieved by FOTC nationwide (and one international) include:
- 92% of youth go on to enroll in post-secondary education, serve our country or enter the workforce
- 83% of youth earn a high school diploma or GED
- 93% of youth remain free from juvenile justice system involvement
- 98% of youth wait to parent until after their teen years
What does it mean to you for Cambia to provide this program?
As a company, Cambia works to do really important things for people, but we can’t expect to achieve big things if we aren’t willing to do them ourselves.
Years ago, I had a mentor who was fond of saying, “I was born lucky,” when asked about his life. That wasn’t to say that everything just happened for him by luck. But he was born to hard-working parents who emphasized education, which brought many opportunities throughout his life, including mentors. Another leader who I greatly respect advises us to “lift where we stand” when challenges in our world seem too big to face. These two themes play out greatly for me.
Like my mentor – I was born “lucky” with a lot of support including wise insights from mentors. I also had a starting line that made it easier for my hard work to pay off. Unfortunately, there are many people in my own community who need support getting to the starting line and enabling THEIR hard work to accomplish life goals. I’ve been given much, and I want to do what I can to help – in a way that creates lasting change by addressing root problems, not just dedicating endless resources to otherwise uncurable symptoms.