Prudential Executive Lends Business And Financial Acumen To Steer Nonprofits To Success

Meet Daily Point of Light Award honoree Mary Ann Jackson. Read her story, and nominate an outstanding volunteer or family as a Daily Point of Light. 

Mary Ann Jackson is an avid traveler. She hasn’t celebrated her birthday in the U.S. since she was 36. Now 51, she’s mastered the art of avoiding jet lag. Perhaps in some sense of balance, Mary Ann has lived in her childhood home for the last 40+ years. Family is high priority for her, and she loves being an auntie—and now great-auntie. She’s also helping her mom in her fight against breast cancer. Put simply, Mary Ann cares. 

She cares about her job, a tenure at Prudential that has spanned 27 years and has led to her role as vice president of process. She cares about the young women who find their passion for STEM through Girls’ Action Network and the underrepresented talent for STEM field she cultivates through New Jersey BDPA. She cares about disrupting the cycle of poverty with United Way of Greater Newark. She wants all of the participants in Apex Solutions Group’s at-risk youth and parolees who participate in their program to overcome their circumstances and find work.  

Her expansive capacity to care has resulted in serving in board of director positions with all of these organizations where she assists in steering them to success. With years of business, financial experience and—perhaps most importantly—innate curiosity, Mary Ann has been an important part of each of their paths. 

WHAT INSPIRES YOU TO VOLUNTEER?  

When I was in high school, I participated in Inroads, an organization whose mission is to develop talented minorities in business and industry and prepare them for corporate and community leadership. Inroad scholarships are why I didn’t have student loans. Community service was very important. We worked in the community and then did internships with different companies. That’s when I first knew this work is important. Because I was the recipient of it.

TELL US ABOUT YOUR VARIOUS VOLUNTEER ROLES.

Mary ann jackson, vice president of process for prudential, has served on multiple boards throughout her career and helped steer strategy with positive results./courtesy mary ann jackson

I sat on the board of the Girls Action Network as the CFO for 20 years. It was about helping young women understand where their natural aptitude lay then giving them mentors and educational sessions so they could learn about the careers within those spaces. 

I joined the board for United Way of Essex about four years ago and am now the chair. I sit down with the CEO to go through the whole strategic plan: who are we going to have, if we’re going to do a merger, etc. I also help with key donor and prospects presentations. 

I was on the board for BDPA for four years as Vice President of Strategy and Planning, originally getting involved because the president worked with me at Prudential. He needed me to help figure out how to ensure that companies continued to give and that they were having a return on the investment.  

I found APEX Solutions Group through my significant other, one of the founding partners, and have served on the advisory board for two years. They do workforce development with at-risk youth and parolees through a 12-week program with construction companies, the Department of Labor and others. Participants come out of it with a job. The first two classes were all men, so my focus was getting women in. Now they have a mixed group  all women.   

A lot of what I do is figure out how to make sure these organizations are financially solvent. It’s the strategy on how to make sure we have the right people in the right seat doing the right stuff to make an impact.  

WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO GET STARTED WITH THESE INITIATIVES?  

Once I got to corporate America, I realized I needed to do community service to align the why we do stuff with who we do it for. You can sit behind a desk all day, but if you don’t know who you do it for, your work really doesn’t have the meaning that it should. In our line of business, we give people peace of mind when loved ones die or get sick. We do annuities when you’re ready to retire, so you have something to continue to enjoy life on. Sometimes we forget that.  

I still live in Newark partly because I think people get ahead and then leave. How do you keep the neighborhood building? How do kids see successes? Success can’t be Hey, I’m making money, now I’m leaving 

WHAT’S BEEN THE MOST REWARDING PART OF YOUR WORK? 

It’s not just not the community that you serve; it’s who you serve with. At United Way, there’s a young guy on the board who is really coming out his shell. Watching him inspire young leaders to go into philanthropy is amazing. If I can inspire two people and each of them inspires two people, it’s the multiplier effect. 

DO YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE FOR PEOPLE WHO HAVE NEVER BEEN ON A BOARD BEFORE AND ARE CONSIDERING GETTING INVOLVED IN THAT WAY? 

Read the bylaws so you know what you what you’re getting into. Understand the mission and the vision of the organization, and go in for the first three months and listen. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. A lot of times we jump into stuff and want to direct. Also, understand that you have to be objective and lead with good intent. I met a woman who told me that she teaches her kids to be slow to offend but even slower to be offended. 

WHAT DO YOU WANT PEOPLE TO LEARN FROM YOUR STORY? 

If each of us does a little bit, it’ll go a long way. Sometimes life is hard, and people deserve help because they’re human. I gave a talk in November and said, I don’t need you to pay me back. I need you to pay it forward. Do it with the expectation that no one’s going to give back to you, because your blessings will come from a different place. Give because it’s in your heart to give. Don’t do it so people can say you’re a good person. 

Do you want to make a difference in your community like Mary AnnFind local volunteer opportunities. 

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