JCA Turns 30! Part 2: A Brief History by CEO Steve Jacobson

October 01, 2018

As JCA celebrates its 30th Birthday, Steve Jacobson is giving us a recount of the history of JCA and nonprofit technology. Read part 1 here, here’s the second installment…


One of the great things about working with nonprofits is the opportunity to help organizations achieve their missions. And, since JCA works with all segments of the nonprofit sector, I’ve been able to experience first-hand the impact our clients have had on the diverse constituents they serve. There are certainly memories that have stuck with me over the years. I remember the excitement and wonderment of a school group visiting the American Museum of Natural History back in 2003, when they first saw the incredible blue whale suspended from the ceiling of the newly renovated Hall of Ocean Life.

Also in 2003, I had been hired to help the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia select and implement some of its systems in advance of it opening. On July 4, I was working onsite at the Constitution Center when, during the dedication, a large portion of the stage frame came crashing down, missing Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor by inches, but actually hitting Senator Arlen Specter, Mayor John Street, and NCC president, Joe Torsella. Thankfully, none of the injuries was serious and the rest of the day (including the admissions system!) went on without a hitch.

But perhaps the most moving event for me was the one-on-one guided tour that I received at St. Jude Children’s Hospital. Sometimes, when you’re in the fundraising business, we look at very disconnected metrics. How much money do they raise? How many staff are working on the campaign? Other times, we look at metrics related to an organization’s effectiveness or reach. How much do they spend on overhead? Or how many children do they serve? It’s that last one that got me at St. Jude’s. While the number of children that ALSAC (the fundraising organization behind St. Jude’s) supports by providing free care for children stricken with cancer, the magnitude of their efforts only comes into focus when you see room after room of children, fighting the battle of their lives—all made possible by dedicated fundraisers and committed supporters. I was blessed to have Marilyn Elledge, the esteemed doyenne of ALSAC fundraising, give me one of her last tours before she retired. Marilyn told me stories about valiant struggles, the gratitude of anguished parents, and the hope that, one day, the research at St. Jude’s would eradicate children’s cancer. Needless to say, this reminded me of why I do what I do.


That’s it for now…stay tuned for next week’s third (and final) edition of “JCA Turns 30.”