Jacki Zehner: Game-Changer in Focused Philanthropy

Jacki Zehner saw first-hand the importance of helping others, watching her mother take the initiative with those less fortunate in her Canadian hometown — driving them to doctor’s appointments, cooking for them, generally seeing a need and filling it.

Then,  she was the recipient of someone else’s philanthropy.  Some men who worked in the financial services sector each donated $250,000 so that students at The University of British Columbia could act as real-world portfolio managers — also creating a pool of future job candidates with some actual investment experience.  Jacki was one of the first people to be chosen for this special program that also involved summer internships and professional mentorship.

Then, something really BIG happened.

She became the first graduate of UBC to be hired by Goldman Sachs in New York — applying intelligence and determination to capitalize on opportunity in the most competitive playing field in the business world.  In 1996, Jacki became the youngest woman and first female trader to become a partner of the firm.

Her discipline and focus as an athlete helped.  (A two-time  junior Canadian bodybuilding champion is not to be underestimated.)  But Wall Street was not the most female-friendly environment.    It ignited her awareness of gender inequity and inequality. Her rise to partnership was the exception, not the rule.

Like her mother and grandmother before her, she became a community activist, first inside Goldman, then on a global scale.

Jacki became involved in the firm’s diversity initiatives — working to change the barriers and biases that held back talented women and minorities.  She undertook a full-time role to infuse a gender lens to the human capital management process, developing policies and practices that would level the playing field.

This experience at Goldman gave her access to some of the world’s best thinkers on gender inequality in the workplace, as well as the financial resources to commit to her cause.  Thus, she began a new career path as a board member, donor and activist on women’s issues in general.

Imagine adding a multiplier factor to Jacki’s passion, prowess and financial asset base.  Voila!

She found her tribe and now serves as CEO of Women Moving Millions, a growing community of women (and a few men) who have made gifts of $1 million or more to organizations/initiatives that support the advancement of women and girls around the world.  Already WMM has inspired over $200 million in commitments.  There are over 160 members.

To me, this is the WOW factor — a game-changer in the way women deal with power and money. An example of the new face of philanthropy, as well as female consumer spending/investing at the highest level.   It’s about focus, rather than fragmentation.

Women Moving Millions brings a professional, best practices mindset to the business of helping others.  Splintering donations among a myriad of requests can be dilutive.  Specificity and strategy can deliver a bigger result:

  • Consider a cause that is important to you.
  • Commit to it with gusto!
  • Research.  Get specific.  Maybe there is a subset under the umbrella of need where you can make a bigger difference.
  • Become a thought leader.  Become an expert in the issues and be a speaker/writer for the cause.
  • Consider the full range of dollars you can apply.

Note:  The last point is major — the core of high impact philanthropy.   Using her Wall Street acumen, Jacki teaches women how to harness the full potential of their financial resources that include:

  • Grant-making/giving dollars
  • Investable assets of foundations
  • Personal investable assets
  • Everyday consumer spending

She is influencing change at the highest level and leading by example — investing with a gender lens in support of women-led businesses.  Selecting female fund managers.  Voting her proxy, saying no to all-male corporate boards.  The Capgemini World Wealth report estimates that high net worth individuals control $42 trillion of financial assets, globally.  Total annual consumer spending in the U.S. is approximately $10 trillion.  You get the picture.

I met Jacki in Dallas at a reception hosted by Texas Wall Street Women and Texas Women Ventures.  To say she is a dynamo is an understatement.

The cumulative approach to allocation of dollars is what can truly change the world — spending and investing with companies and initiatives that represent our values.  This is a collective impact mindset that capitalizes on focus, mass and scale.

It’s a worthy strategy for anyone who wants to make a difference, regardless of net worth.

copyright 2012 Nancy Keene All Rights Reserved

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Copyright © 2012 Nancy Keene