CoJMC alum leverages company as a force of good

CoJMC alum leverages company as a force of good

Monday, March 12, 2018 - 11:45am
Jay Wilkinson
Jay Wilkinson graduated from the CoJMC in 1988

by Alli Inglebright

Jay Wilkinson, CEO and founder of Firespring and CoJMC alum, knew he wanted to leave a legacy behind honoring his father.

“My father was a huge support to me throughout my childhood,” Wilkinson said “He was the best dad a kid could have. He was my Boy Scout leader, the coach of my youth sports teams and never missed a single game or activity. My dream was to someday acquire enough wealth that I could do something big in his honor like have a park or hospital wing named after him.”

After having a conversation with his father in 2013 about his legacy, Wilkinson realized his father didn’t care about parks or hospital wings. He just wanted his children and grandchildren to be caring, well rounded members of their community. So Wilkinson began to rethink his plan to leave a legacy for his father and instead begin taking action on ways he could make impact now.

Wilkinson started looking into earning a B Certification for Firespring. As a Certified B Corporation, Firespring would meet certain standards on social and environmental performance, accountability and transparency. The certification would be earned from B Lab, a nonprofit organization that assess companies and grants the certifications.

“I was aware of B corporations and always admired organizations that earned the certification such as TOMS Shoes, Patagonia and Warby Parker,” Wilkinson said. “We took the assessment at Firespring and just fell short of meeting the qualifications. We evolved the company’s purpose and made changes that earned us enough points to achieve the certification.”

Firespring implemented a “Power of 3” program that leveraged 3 percent of its people, products and profit to become the first B corporation in Nebraska. Each employee volunteers eight hours a month, technology is given to nonprofits for free, and the company donates 3 percent of its profits to charity through the Firespring Foundation. The company is audited every two years by the B Lab to make sure it is still hitting its standards.

Since earning the certification, Wilkinson has noticed an increase in the volume of applications from job seekers.

“There has been a substantial shift in our work culture since earning the certification,” Wilkinson said. “People entering the workforce want to work for a company that is part of something bigger than themselves. There is a strong sense of satisfaction and pride when you’re part of something bigger - regardless of your position in the company.”

Wilkinson graduated from the CoJMC in 1988 with a dual degree in advertising and broadcasting. He moved to New York City shortly thereafter to expand a magazine he had started his sophomore year in college. After four years in New York City he sold the magazine and moved back to Lincoln to start a printing company, which would later become Firespring. The company has always had a passion for working with nonprofits and launched a software-as-a-service product for nonprofit organizations in 2001, which continues to be Firespring’s fastest growing business unit to this day.

One of Firespring’s biggest contributions since earning its certification was donating the building and seed money for the Nonprofit Hub. The Hub is a nonprofit organization that focuses on providing resources for nonprofits. The Hub provides discounted space for nonprofits to work in and online resources to help organizations across the U.S. grow.

“What’s awesome is that Nonprofit Hub has a strong national presence,” Wilkinson said. “I was recently speaking at a national nonprofit conference in New York and asked the room how many of them had heard of Nonprofit Hub and 85 percent of the room raised their hand. Five years ago only a few hands would have gone up. They are a respected, national voice in the nonprofit sector.”

Firespring currently has over 10,000 clients in all 50 states and in 12 countries on six continents. The team members volunteer over 20,000 hours a year for organizations of their choice. Moving forward, Wilkinson said the goal for Firespring is to continue providing services to nonprofits.