After graduation, Kim Davis ’02 focused her job search on brand management for a social mission company. What she found was a unique opportunity straddling both the for-profit and nonprofit worlds as managing director of Taproot, a nonprofit foundation based in New York City.
Taproot uses the resources of the business community to strengthen the nonprofit sector, in areas such as marketing, human resources, project and Web development. “We are the bridge between the nonprofit and business worlds,” Davis says.
Before business school, Davis worked with the Children’s Defense Fund, Rock the Vote and a grant-making foundation. “This gave me great exposure to major problems nonprofits face,” she says, “including high employee turnover and a lack of branding or marketing savvy.” She also started a consulting practice to help build the internal capacity of nonprofits.
“I saw many issues, but I didn’t have the tools to solve them, including finance and accounting skills,” Davis says, “so I applied to Columbia with the idea that I’d use my education to strengthen the nonprofit sector.” In her final semester, she completed an independent study on nonprofit brands with Professor Don Sexton. After graduation, she was involved in a rebranding effort with Landor Associates for the four graduate schools in the health sciences at Columbia University.
In describing her choice to enter the nonprofit sector as a career, Davis says that she’s “always been more people focused than bottom-line focused, but I respect the bottom line for allowing us to fulfill our mission. Nonprofits do something very unique in society: they preserve our values, which is beyond what businesses and government alone can accomplish. Without these values, we wouldn’t have a civil society.”
As managing director at Taproot, Davis is involved in managing the growth of the New York office, including marketing, grants, recruitment and staff development; managing the board; financial management; and long-term strategic planning, including deciding which regional markets to penetrate and which corporate partnerships to pursue.
Davis also encourages professionals to volunteer on Taproot’s projects. “Taproot is a great way to build your professional network,” she says. “We work with professionals from the Bank of America, Deutsche Bank, New York Times, Lehman, MTV, Vogue, and Condé Nast, to name a few. However, we’re very selective and only take 40 percent of the volunteers who apply.”
Davis believes that one of the best ways to contribute to the nonprofit sector is to be involved in a team project. She says, “We provide opportunities to create something concrete that makes a tangible difference.”