JBS blends business with philanthropy

February 3, 2013

Who: Jerri Shaw, co-chief executive and president.

Company: JBS International, a women-owned management and information technology company with an emphasis on health, social, and educational needs in the community.

Charitable giving highlights: JBS gave $74,000 to charitbale organizations in 2012.

Describe the company’s philanthropy.

JBS is focused on health care, social services and education, primarily for vulnerable populations, which means homeless people, children exposed to violence, women exposed to domestic violence, low income people who don’t have enough food, shelter, help, clothing. We manage federal contracts that reach out to programs serving all those people. That’s what we do everyday at work so the philanthropy grows out of that. We do give cash donations, but primarily we contribute items that people really need to make it through a day or month.

Describe some of the activities.

We have an event almost every month, something special that we do. It started with the more traditional holidays. We donate food, toys or help with a Thanksgiving meal. Since then, we’ve added pieces like participating in the Fannie Mae Help the Homeless program. For N Street Village, we construct Valentines Day gift bags with special items for women who have been through tough situations. We also do Mother’s Day donations to an organization that works with women and children who are victims of domestic violence.

What is the giving structure?

It starts with the co-chief executives, communications and human relations staff. Between the eight of us, we figure out if there’s a cause we want to add. We put together a basic event plan at the beginning of the year, which is October. Then, as a staff, we identify other opportunities and ask employee volunteers to run that particular initiative.

How do you determine your nonprofit partners?

An organization that is serving people in need, performing well and interested in long-term partnerships. Mainly, we work with groups that our staff have worked with.

When was the philanthropist in you born?

My family was always about reaching out to people in need and doing what you could to help. Both my parents were very involved in the civil rights movement. We supported the Tennessee Tent City Movement in the 1950s and worked there for a summer. We participated in the marches like so many others. We joined the revitalizing organizations in the District. There was a clothing center and homelessness center that the family volunteered at. It was something we grew up with. That was the way you did things ... If you’re privileged to receive, you should give back.

As a company that focuses on social needs, is there a place where business ends and philanthropy begins?

There’s so much need out there, it’s being practical about what we can do within the volunteer time we have available. Everyone here has their primary job. They are figuring out how to squeeze in the volunteer work. We do a lot of work on lunch hours, after work, weekends. We have to do our primary contract work. It’s what the government pays us to do. I think the real challenge is how much more can we squeeze in?

How are you navigating that?

We’re going to bring in an expert who organizes volunteer work for other companies. She will look at what we’re doing and seeing if there’s a more effective way. We’re not the kind of company that can pay people for their time to go do volunteer work. We’re too small for that.

How will sequestration affect the company’s philanthropy?

We’re pretty smart financially. We’ve been through the earlier shut down. We’ve been through other sequestrations. We’re ready. We’re not looking forward to it. We’ve educated the staff on what sequestration means. Every project team knows what they’ll be able to keep doing. The real hit from sequestration, if it lasts that long, will be in the summer months and the fall. We’ve been working with all our government people and project teams on what we’ll be able to keep doing. We’re intending to continue all of our volunteer work because the need will just be greater. What we’re really worried about is 2014.

— Interview with Vanessa Small

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