In the Worldwide101 Leadership Series we share the inspiring stories of some of the leaders we have the privilege to support at Worldwide101. In this post, we share the story of Jeremy Gregg, fundraising consultant at Gregg Partners, and how he founded a business to fulfill his passion for helping others.
Jeremy Gregg, a fourth-generation Dallasite, had two pivotal experiences growing up that shaped his perspective on privilege: in grade school, he was educated by Cistercian monks—Hungarian refugees who, despite having endured tremendous hardship in their own lives, had chosen to serve others; and in college, he befriended a group of homeless people who congregated near the White House where he worked as an intern. It was those men and women, their stories, and the interactions with them that moved Jeremy to take stock of his life and what he wanted to do with it.
“I realized that I could respond to our differences with a sense of entitlement, or I could respond with gratitude and stewardship,” he says. “I decided to invest my time, talent, and treasure into bettering the lives of my neighbors.”
And so, after a visit to his college’s career counseling department, Jeremy started applying for jobs at nonprofit organizations. His first job out of school was with Camp Fire, an after-school and summer program for economically disadvantaged kids in Dallas, Texas. Because he was an English major, and an eager new grad, Jeremy was tasked with writing a fundraising grant. He threw himself into the task, and in addition to writing a successful grant, he discovered his vocation: fundraising.
“I realized that I could work directly with people on the streets and affect a couple of dozen people per year, but if I worked in fundraising, I could help many, many more,” he says.
In the meantime, Jeremy learned what helping people truly means. He had befriended a homeless couple, both with a criminal background and untreated chemical addiction. He gave them charity, but realized, “charity is an effective response to a disaster, but it can actually make things worse for people living in poverty,” he says. Advice from his mentors, including Larry James (the author of The Wealth of The Poor), allowed him to see that he was focused more on the couple liking him than on him truly loving them. While he was grappling with the challenge of learning how to help his friends, Jeremy received an unexpected invitation from a new friend, Chris Quadri: “Why don’t you come to prison and see how we work with the world’s biggest underdogs to help change their lives?” It was there, in one of the darkest corners of society, that Jeremy first began to see how nonprofits could truly transform the lives of those who had no other hope.
For 15 years, Jeremy has worked with organizations that help kids, homeless families, prisoners, and more, impacting hundreds of thousands of families and raising approximately $40 million for the organizations he has served.
And while his impact has been significant, Jeremy wanted to extend it even more. In 2014, he made a leap from fundraiser – helping whichever organization he was working for – to fundraising consultant – leveraging his experience to help multiple organizations increase their fundraising, and thus, their impact on their populations.
When first launching his business, Jeremy’s mission was clear, but his knowledge of running a consulting practice was muddy. “Entrepreneurship is a crucible in which you’re forced to reveal your weaknesses and strengths,” he says. “At first, I created a job for myself instead of creating a business. Unless you get the right people and systems in place, whatever service you’re delivering ends up secondary to running the business: hiring and training people, billing, and so on.”
Jeremy knew that to accomplish his personal mission of helping others he needed to focus on building his business. To work toward that, he took some carefully chosen steps–one of which was to hire a skilled assistant. “I needed somebody who would be my right-hand person. I didn’t want to go broke because I didn’t know how to invoice my clients,” he says.
Through Worldwide101, Jeremy was matched with AnnMarie, an experienced virtual assistant who does Jeremy’s scheduling, prospecting, research, and editing. “She was able to coach me on how to use her services so that I could grow my business,” Jeremy says. And grow it has. In one year, Jeremy’s company has grossed 5-6 times the amount it did the first year. In addition, he has now grown his portfolio of clients to include charities across the country, not just in North Texas.
“I made a commitment to myself and to the business. AnnMarie takes on a variety of things so that I can focus on what I do best – helping organizations bring in funding,” Jeremy says. His clients, which range from performing arts to health and human services to education organizations, reach more than 100,000 people per year.
“I want to become the strongest possible partner that mission-driven organizations can have to augment their capacity to help others,” he says.
Jeremy’s commitment to his business, Gregg Partners, and to his clients has allowed him to tap into his own strengths, supplement with the strengths of others on his team, and truly focus on fulfilling his personal mission of helping his neighbors.