December 01, 2011
You Need to Know: Jennifer Sampson
By Suzanne Asfar, D CEO
Jennifer Sampson, president and CEO of United Way of Metropolitan Dallas, reads to students at an Uplift Education school in East Dallas, which the nonprofit organization supports.
CEO and President,
United Way of Metropolitan Dallas
Why You Need to Know Her
Not just because she's the first woman president and CEO at United Way of Metropolitan Dallas, the largest non-governmental funder of health and human services in North Texas, but because Jennifer Sampson is changing the way the 86-year-old nonprofit runs.
"I think women, oftentimes, are an underutilized resource," she says. "Women, I believe, have the power to change a community."
Sampson was named to the post in September, following the retirement of the organization's former chief, Gary Godsey. She initially joined United Way in 2001 as chief financial officer, following a 10-year stint as an auditor with a large accounting firm; she was promoted to chief operating officer in 2004.
Her accounting background has helped push the nonprofit toward higher accountability standards — and meeting expectations of the group's estimated 90,000+ donors. "My dad taught me that if you understand how to read financial statements and you understand the financial structure of any organization, you can pretty much do whatever you want," Sampson says.
There's no denying the organization's impact. United Way of Metropolitan Dallas has a $45 million annual budget, more than 5,000 volunteers, and nearly 80 employees. Last year the group released its 10-year strategic plan. Called United 2020, it includes goals for improvements in education, income, and health. As COO, Sampson played a critical role in developing the plan; now she's in charge of implementing it.
"That whole process has been one of the most rewarding professional experiences I've ever had," she says, "because I see the needs in the community. I know how complex these issues are.... It's the mission that keeps me up at night, and it also gets me out of bed in the morning."