Forbes Nonprofit Council members come from a wide range of backgrounds. And with their wide range of experiences, they have a lot to share with fellow members of the community. To help them share with an even greater audience, we’re profiling Forbes Nonprofit Council members here on the blog. This week: Jessica Guberman.
Jessica Zufall-Guberman is the CEO of Special Citizens Futures Unlimited, which supports adults and children with autism. She is skilled in strategic planning, organizational structural development and in handling nonprofit acquisition and mergers. Zufall-Guberman was recently named the most influential woman of 2016 by The Bronx Times.
How did your career as a nonprofit executive take off, and what do you attribute your success to most?
I was offered two jobs out of college. One job was in the technology field as a marketing internet associate, and the other job was a case worker in a group home that supported people with developmental disabilities. The technology position was more money than the human service job.
However, I kept asking myself the same question, “Which one of these jobs is going to allow me to have the most impact and make most of a difference?” Subsequently, I accepted the group home position and that is how my nonprofit career began in 1996.
Since then, I have only worked in the nonprofit sector and attribute my success to my predecessors and the populations of people I have had the privilege to support throughout my career. If it were not for those people, I would not have learned as much as I have and then taking what I have learned and turning it into a practical application to improve the quality of life for so many.
How do you keep yourself passionate and driven regardless of how busy you are day to day?
I keep myself passionate on a daily basis by never moving too far from the frontline. Frontline staffing is the heartbeat of human service nonprofits, and the closer I stay to this line of employees, the more inspired I am to continue to innovate and improve service delivery. My two children also keep me passionate. They are very involved in my work and tell me how proud they are of me every day. It was always important to me to they understood the meaning of giving back and being selfless, and I believe this is a value that I have instilled in them as a direct result of the work I do.
What do you see as the future of nonprofits?
What I hope is the future of nonprofits is the ability to be a more prominent player in the world of business — all business, not just nonprofit business. Within our sector, there are brilliant minds that can lend an entirely new set of optics to the landscape of business and my hope is that we are continued to be taken seriously and are able to contribute to larger dialogues about business process and function.
What is your best nonprofit leadership or strategy tip for businesses?
The best nonprofit leadership or strategy to me is to always stay right-sized. Yes, I am a chief executive officer, however, I was not always a chief executive officer. I never forget where I have come from (doing frontline work) and remaining humble about the position I am in now allows me to continue to learn and grow, which means the operations of my business are always at the forefront of innovation.