Insurance clients often get a few side benefits with their policy purchases: peace of mind, a sense of financial security, maybe even a free pen or two (covered in the agent's logo, of course). But Jason Jenkins' clients get one bonus many other customers don't: the chance to give back.
Jenkins' Causeworth Asset Management, located in the San Diego suburb of La Mesa, Calif., allows each client to designate a favorite registered nonprofit to which a portion of the agency's gross revenues will be donated. It's a benefit that has helped Jenkins sell policies to on-the-fence prospects and keeps existing clients loyal, Jenkins says.
Editor's note:It has been brought to our attention that allowing clients to designate a registered nonprofit to which a portion of the agency's gross revenues will be donated, while legal in California, could violate anti-rebating laws on the books in select states. Please check with your state's department of insurance before instituting a similar program.
"It creates goodwill, and clients like it," he says. "It's just a part of who we are and definitely separates us from our competition."
But the charitable perk is far from just a promotional tactic for Jenkins. The 36-year-old is on a mission to give back, both locally and internationally. He's been working since 2005 to raise funds for and build a leadership academy in Ghana that will eventually educate students from preschool through college. Jenkins is also an active supporter of San Diego's Rady Children's Hospital and the city's YMCA.
"I've always had a heart for giving back," he says. "It was kind of the way I was raised."
The human factor
Altruism wasn't the only thing Jenkins inherited from his parents. The son of two insurance agents, Jenkins followed them into the industry after graduating from Westmont College in Santa Barbara, Calif., in 1997 with a degree in business and economics. At the time, his mind was more on doing well than doing good.
"I kind of got out of college and thought, OK, what am I going to do?" he says. "I was kind of like, 'Show me the money!'"
In 2002, Jenkins started his own firm, adding financial advising to the list of services he provides. Wanting to boost his ability to serve his clients, he also went back to school to earn a Master of Business Administration.
It was at Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego that Jenkins first met Professor Senyo Adjibolosoo, a native of Ghana. The professor's unorthodox teaching techniques grabbed Jenkins' attention.
"At the end of class one day, he handed out a 3x5 card and told us to share what was in our hearts and that he'd pray for us," Jenkins says. "I was just like, 'What?' The next day, he came back with these sheets full of personal insights for every one of us. I had never, in all my career, been exposed to someone who just genuinely cared for everybody."
Adjibolosoo emphasized what he called the "human factor" in economic development -- the idea that positive results aren't driven by politics or aid programs, but by human behavior.
"It was like no economics class I've had before," Jenkins says. "He's using symbols to represent everything, and it's like, I thought I was smart, and this guy is totally blowing me over."
Focused on his newborn at home and his growing business, though, Jenkins hurried to finish the class--"I was kind of like, okay, this is great, but I just want to get an A"-- and moved on to his next courses.
But in 2005, Jenkins spotted a book by Adjibolosoo, "The Human Factor in Leadership Effectiveness," and picked it up. The book applied Adjibolosoo's human factor theory to leadership principles, stressing the importance of caring, ethical leaders in efforts to bring about positive change. Jenkins plowed through the book in two days.
When he finished, "I just remember thinking, 'I can't believe this is my professor," he says. "This is totally sustainable. This is genius.'"
Jenkins phoned Adjibolosoo and asked him out to lunch. At a restaurant overlooking the beach in Point Loma, the two became heavily engrossed in conversation and lunch turned into dinner. Near the end of their talk, when Jenkins asked Adjibolosoo to describe his ultimate vision, the professor told him that his dream was to open a human factor-oriented school in Akatsi, his hometown in Ghana.
"Then why don't you do it?" Jenkins asked.
Adjibolosoo said something about being nothing but a poor professor, and Jenkins replied, "Well, I'm nothing but a crazy white guy, so let's do this!"
Jenkins immediately started drawing up a three-phase strategy for getting the Human Factor Leadership Academy off the ground. The first phase would focus on getting to know the local residents in Ghana and broaching the idea of building a school there. Next, they'd scope out land and properties to select a site. And finally, they'd build and open the academy.
"We didn't want to barge in to this foreign country and say, 'We're here to save you, and this school is the answer,'" Jenkins says. "I knew we'd have to be strategic about it and get to know the culture."
To introduce themselves to the community, Jenkins and Adjibolosoo shipped 15,000 books to the town and opened up an after-school resource center in the summer of 2006. Local families were thrilled to have them there, and the center started drawing more than 100 kids daily.
In 2007, Jenkins made his first trip to Ghana to purchase land for the school and visit the resource center. As he was leaving, a little boy hugged him and thanked him for opening the center, and Jenkins started tearing up as he walked away.
"I realized that I was going to leave in a little bit and go home, and this little boy was going to stay here," he says.
He was struck by the realization that he still wasn't doing enough to help.
"I know it sounds funny, but I'm just telling you what I experienced -- this voice spoke to me and said, 'Jason, I need more from you,'" he says. "And I thought, what? Here I am, taking time away from my career and my family to build this school. Raising money. Traveling to Africa. What more could I do?"
Back home in San Diego, Jenkins continued to ponder the voice in his head, asking himself what else he could do to help those in need.
Driving to work one day, he came up with an idea to devote a portion of his clients' gross revenues to the school in Ghana. Thinking it through some more, he decided to allow clients to donate the funds to any nonprofit -- allowing them to choose where they made their donation, instead.
"That was kind of the birth of Causeworth," Jenkins says. He changed the company's name from Jenkins Wealth Management to Causeworth to better reflect the firm's dual mission of protecting and increasing clients' worth and giving back to worthy causes. "The name has this kind of duality that we're really proud of," Jenkins says.
At Causeworth, 10% of insurance revenues and 5% of asset management revenues are donated. To date, the company has given back roughly 10% of its profits.
Since adding the perk, Jenkins says it's been easier to sell to clients who might have been feeling iffy about purchasing an insurance policy. The donations have also made Jenkins' clients devoutly faithful to his company.
"They know that if they go somewhere else, it's going to be the same price," he says. "If they stay here, they get the same price, and they get to donate to their favorite cause. It's made them extremely loyal."
Jenkins didn't stop there, either. He's also become a personal supporter of the Rady Children's Hospital and the YMCA and encourages his clients to give back to those organizations.
Jenkins thinks his zeal for his charitable projects as well as his business -- he's been named a Forbes Five Star Wealth Manager three times -- is another reason clients come to see him.
"People who know me know that I'm pretty passionate about what I do, and people want to be associated with that," he says.
It's a passion that's rubbed off on Jenkins' two kids, Hunter, 7, and Julia, 5. Two years ago, at age 5, Hunter made a collection of books out of construction paper, sold them in front of a Starbucks for $54 and gave all the money to his dad to purchase supplies for the school in Ghana.
"It just makes you proud, as a parent, to see that," Jenkins says.
Also making Jenkins proud these days is the Human Factor Leadership Academy. Last January, the school opened to preschoolers and first graders and now has 87 students. Later this year, the academy, which will eventually host students from preschool through college, will open for second graders. The school's college courses, which will be held in a rehabilitated tobacco factory, are ready to go, as well, but the college is awaiting accreditation, which Jenkins describes, sighing, as "a process."
It's not the kind of situation Jenkins imagined himself in years ago. When Jenkins talks about how he's evolved since those show-me-the-money days after college, he laughs. "It's interesting, as you walk through life, how things kind of change you."
Corey Dahl is the managing editor of Life Insurance Selling.