“I wanted my son and me to be among kids that looked like him and moms that felt the way I do when it comes to their children’s future.” What started as a wish for her son would eventually lead to a career change that allowed Marvis Donalson to connect her professional experience and passion for community service as Head of Partnerships – Sororities, Fraternities, and Service Organizations at Double Good.
She learned from friends, and community members about a mother’s organization focused on children and building future Black leaders. Jack and Jill of America, Inc. (JJOA, Inc) was founded 85 years ago as a leadership organization during the Great Depression by Black mothers. Their collective purpose was to bring their children together to prepare them for leadership through social, cultural, and educational opportunities. “We are developing citizens,” explains JJOA, Inc Member at Large Deidra Murphy, “Community service is our culture. If they are 2 years old, they are learning about community service.”
In JJOA, Inc, Donalson saw an opportunity for her son “to gain confidence in who he is and understand that there are other Black kids like him who want to be civic-minded and care about their community through their individual goals.” When she was invited to join the organization, Donalson didn’t know just how big of an impact accepting the invitation would have on her and her son’s lives.
Before joining Double Good, Donalson enjoyed a career in finance and sales at Fortune 100 companies, including 15 years at Coca-Cola as the Director of National Sales. But her lifelong passion was always community service. She discovered a new purpose for her professional experience through her involvement with JJOA, Inc, and soon found herself in leadership roles.
She first heard about Double Good Virtual Fundraising during the pandemic while looking for a contactless fundraising solution. A chapter president from another region had experienced tremendous success with Virtual Fundraising, and she felt it could be successful for other chapters. The teenage members could no longer fundraise in person. However, the communities they served were in need during that time, and JJOA, Inc wanted to still provide support despite the pandemic. Rather than bring the idea to the chapters in her region, she proposed that the region collectively hold a Virtual Fundraiser, with each chapter opening its own Pop-Up Store. With that first venture at a regional fundraiser, they raised more money than ever.
For the first time, the Teen Leaders could see the significant impact their efforts can make on the communities they serve. “Double Good teaches entrepreneurship, salespersonship, how to earn money for a cause,” says Murphy, ”and then they turn around and put it towards the causes we support.” Because the Teens are raising the money, they get to decide how they want to spend it to support their community. Donalson shared similar sentiments, saying, “We want the children to know they have a voice, that they can impact communities, and Double Good encourages that through the Virtual Fundraising experience.” With this shift, JJOA, Inc realized the opportunities they could unlock by building upon their first Virtual Fundraising efforts. Once JJOA, Inc experienced how Double Good’s mission aligned with theirs, “it became clear that a partnership would help the teens increase their community impact.”
When Double Good and JJOA, Inc started discussing the opportunity to partner, they discovered that the majority of funds raised through Virtual Fundraising were from teen fundraisers. Since the teens were driving the fundraisers making the biggest impact in their communities, Double Good wanted to support those teens further. While that support manifests in a multitude of ways, one of the most fulfilling ways is through sponsoring the Teen Leadership Summit.
“The future is in good hands with those kids on the rise,” said Eboné Cole, JJOA, Inc’s Account Manager at Double Good. Cole recently attended the 2022 JJOA, Inc Teen Leadership Summit, where Double Good leaders coached the teens on how to approach and solve real-world business cases. When we asked a Teen Leader what skills they have learned through JJOA, Inc, they said, “The life and leadership skills that have been cultivated in me are financial literacy, healthy living, and advocacy.” Introducing the teens to these advanced, critical competencies is by design.
Every year, as part of the National JJOA, Inc Convention, they hold a Teen Leadership Summit. “The goal is to continue to prepare them for leadership,” Donalson explains. “It helps them understand that they are already leaders and how to grow further.” From financial literacy to the importance of governing documents to developing a personal brand, the Teen Leaders are exposed to a variety of skills in workshop sessions. In one session this year, the teens had to solve a scenario where their brand’s reputation was at risk due to supply chain issues out of their control. These workshops give the teens access to expertise and experience rarely available to young leaders. One Teen Leader who shared with us that the workshops are their favorite part of the Leadership Conference said they valued “being able to have discussions with panelists who know what it’s like,” to solve problems they will likely one day face.
In the workshop with Double Good leaders, the Teen Leaders had access to real-life business case scenarios to review. Then, through discussion and coaching, the Double Good leaders helped the teens identify ways they could approach solving challenges presented in the cases. In a scenario where a company was suffering from negative social media, the teens worked through how to both grow their following and customer base while also mitigating ongoing damage to the brand.
One of the coaches was Double Good’s Director of Operations, Ray Francis. “Experiencing JJOA, Inc for the first time was eye-opening,” Francis shared. “I felt inspired meeting all of the talented current and future Black leaders of America.” When asked what he took away from his first JJOA, Inc Teen Leadership Summit, he said, “These young people I encountered were so bright, some of which had already accomplished so much in their short lives. I can only imagine what they will go on to strive for.”
Cole had similar sentiments about her first time as a workshop coach at the Summit, saying, “The opportunity to interact with the teens from Jack and Jill was enlightening and refreshing. The young people there represent their organization very well.”
“It’s nice to have positive messages about and bring awareness to kids who are doing great things and care about their community,” says Donalson, “who want to make a difference and become the leaders we know they can be. Partnering with Double Good and providing extra exposure is a great way to bring awareness to the amazing kids that are part of JJOA, Inc and the things they are doing.”
The impact of JJOA, Inc, the Leadership Conference, and the Teen Leadership Summit on their lives and futures is just as evident to the teens as well. One Teen Leader perfectly summarized their JJOA, Inc experience, saying it “has instilled in me the fearlessness to make noise and not conform to things I may not agree with in life. A leader is not afraid to stand up for what is right, and that is something I proudly learned from Jack and Jill.”