"When you look at United Way of Metropolitan Dallas, what makes the programs great is that there are measurables that we can look at and see if they're really making a difference. "Her leadership in that regard has been the primary reason why I've remained as involved as I am with United Way."
Looking to millennials Sampson sees big dollar signs for the future if United Way can find ways to bring in nontraditional "investors," as she calls givers and volunteers, as well as invigorating the ones it has.
Elusive millennials are a prime target.
That's why Sampson hired Dan Aptor as the chief digital officer in September. "Digital is huge part of our strategic focus to convert observers into doers who eventually become investors," she says.
"It's desperately needed," says Todd Wagner, Mark Cuban's business partner and CEO of the Charity Network. He recently served as a judge in the United Way's OneUp the Pitch, a Shark Tank of sorts for social entrepreneurs.
"Businesses are all moving from analog to digital at lightning speed. The nonprofit world needs to have the same kind of thinking. If they don't figure out how to reach the more tech-savvy millennials, they're at risk."
Wagner says Sampson understands this better than most of the nonprofit world.
She even draws praise from those who might be considered competition, although she prefers to call them "co-opertition."
"There is absolutely no question that Jennifer and her team at United Way Metropolitan Dallas are knocking the ball out of the park in raising funds for their work," says Brent Christopher, president of the Children's Medical Center Foundation and former longtime CEO of the Communities Foundation of Texas.
Making a difference Is Sampson afraid of burnout?
"I am competitive and aggressive by nature," she says. "You have to be in this business. You have to push for ideas, appointments and money. It's difficult for me to dial that back. It's a fast-paced job. It's rewarding and meaningful. And we are making a difference. That is energizing to me. I'm aware of it, but not worried about it."
For Mother's Day, she's going to brunch at Momentum Cafe with her family, sharing the day with her mother and mother-in-law.
The restaurant choice is an obvious one.
The New American restaurant on Pacific Avenue in downtown doubles as a nonprofit helping at-risk youths learn culinary skills. Chad Houser says the restaurant was made possible by an initial $175,000 grant from United Way's incubator organization and Sampson's support.
"The No. 1 thing that makes Jennifer special is her passion," says Houser. "She believes in what she's doing, and that creates authenticity. People buy into it, whether they're from the donor side or people like me on the nonprofit side, because we believe in her."
AT A GLANCE: Jennifer Sampson Title: President and CEO of United Way of Metropolitan Dallas Age: 47 Education: Arlington High School,1988; bachelor's degree in accounting, Baylor University, 1992; CPA certification, 1994 Salary and bonus*: $407,517 for fiscal 2016 First job: Audit intern for Arthur Andersen in Dallas, 1991 Interests: Reading fiction, yoga Personal: Married to trial attorney Ed for 12 years. They have a 10-year-old son, Hilton. *As reported in UWMD's latest 990 IRS filing
March to $100 million In 2015, the United Way Foundation of Metropolitan Dallas launched an aggressive campaign to raise $100 million for its Unite Forever endowment. The campaign has landed more than $43 million in commitments. Here are the milestone gifts that combined for $18.5 million.: Oct. 27, 2015: The grandchildren of Caroline Rose Hunt gave $5 million. Feb. 9, 2016: Diane and Hal Brierley gave $5 million. April 9, 2016: Troy Aikman gave $1 million. Sept. 13, 2016: Karen and Tom Falk gave $1 million. Sept. 24, 2016: Mary and Rich Templeton and the Eugene McDermott Foundation gave $1 million each.