Hillary Beard Schafer '91 is the Chief Executive Officer of Multiplying Good, a national nonprofit focused on elevating public service as the means to empower individuals. Founded as The Jefferson Awards in 1972 by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Senator Robert Taft Jr., and Sam Beard, Schafer's father, the organization has honored 62,000 unsung grassroots heroes and recognized 30,000 youth leaders, along with thousands of the country's most significant trailblazers and change-makers.
Entering as a prep in the fall of 1987, Schafer was already familiar with the School and the local area. Her family spent weekends in Lakeville when she was a child, and her father taught history at Hotchkiss in 1961-62. Her brother, Alex, is a member of the Class of 1989. But, Schafer found the adjustment to boarding school life to be rather difficult. "I managed to get in a fair amount of trouble my first semester. My assigned faculty advisor told me I was a lost cause and wouldn't make it through the year. Instead of folding into that predication, I went to Sherman Barker and asked him to be my advisor, and with his help, things improved. In addition to Mr. Barker, there were many faculty members who shaped my experience there and inspired my love for learning, including Dean Crain, and Messrs. Katzman, Torrey, Hawkins, Eddy, and Hedeman. As far as athletics, I really enjoyed volleyball and softball."
Having matriculated at Middlebury College upon graduation, Schafer received her B.A. in English and art history, but had no idea as to what she wanted to do. "I agreed to work with my father, who was building a grassroots movement called Economic Security 2000 to reform Social Security. We were on a path to change economic history. But the effort wound down, and my father insisted that I follow my most natural predisposition, which was an obsession with numbers. Apparently as young as age three, when my parents went out to dinner, I would pull out all their stray bills and coins, face the bills, count and organize the coins, and leave them a tally on their bed of all the money they didn't know they had. With his nudge, I sought out business school, as I needed a fundamentally new skill set to make the transition." Schafer pursued and received an M.B.A. from the Columbia Graduate School of Business in 2001.
Destined for Wall Street, Schafer worked at UBS for a time and ended up at Citigroup, where she became Head of U.S. Institutional Equity Sales in New York City, making her one of the highest-ranking women in the equity business. When she eventually decided to change course and leave Citigroup, she did so for personal reasons. "I had achieved what I set out to in my role, and my children were small. Those jobs mean you work 12-hour days and have client obligations at least two nights a week. I needed to create better balance but assumed I would stay in finance. When Hurricane Sandy hit New York, I was working on several finance-related projects from home, and I dropped everything to build scale solutions for those in need in my backyard. Working with amazing partners like Robin Hood, I was able to help build programs that delivered millions of hot meals and more than 100,000 blankets to those most in need. My husband strongly advised me to stay in the non-profit world, having witnessed my passion for the work."
Her work, both on the equity floor and as a senior leader on Wall Street, made her a confident and seasoned leader, with an eye for numbers and extensive expertise in understanding what makes an organization a world-class business on a path for success. "It also made me the ultimate multi-tasker, with the ability to process a vast array of information in a very short period of time and translate that into action. And it made me extremely client-centric, focused on what others need to feel engaged, excited, and supported. This has translated into building a strong, engaged, and growing donor base and into building a world-class board at Multiplying Good."
When she joined Multiplying Good as CEO in September 2013, Schafer thought it might be a temporary move. "My father is one of the co-founders; he is committed to public service and has initiated and chaired programs for seven U.S. Presidents: Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton, and Bush. And my husband and I sat on the Board. The organization was at a crossroads and in need of both a leadership change and a repositioning for scale. I agreed to take on the role on an interim, six-to nine-month basis to see what steps needed to be taken and to fill a void. That was five years ago. I fell in love with its mission, with the unique purpose, and with the inherent scalability that public service affords - to build a nation of empathetic leaders and change-makers and to tell powerful, positive and replicable stories, and through that storytelling generate ripples of good.
"As one of the largest multipliers of public service in the country, Good was initially founded in one of the darkest moments in our history, in a time of widespread national discord - 1972 - to shine a light on the good and use the platform of recognition and the power of storytelling to multiply it. Recognition is inspiration. Being celebrated by a broader community and peers not only feels good, but it also helps fuel individuals and teams to do more - to multiply good."
The organization puts great focus on young people. "Young people are inspiring. When faced with a problem, they say 'Why can't I fix it?' whereas adults see barriers first. We have huge talent in our schools and communities that is currently untapped. Service offers young people the chance to pick something that matters to them - and to become the leaders and change-makers they could only ever have hoped to be. It is a natural unifier. In our programs, a young person, getting all Ds and Fs in one of our nation's most vulnerable communities, sees a gang - and drug-filled park next to his school as an opportunity - an opportunity to plant a garden, to get class credit for it, and to put greens on his plate at lunch. We unlock that idea from the young person; he works with his entire school and community to clean and plant the park (and get class credit for it), and he becomes one of the top students in his class. It's students like them who are in all of our backyards that we focus on and help put on a pathway of confident, impassioned, supported, and skills-based success."
"Public service is a powerful tool to help young people discover their true potential. We believe some of the most valuable lessons come from putting the needs of others ahead of your own. With immersive training, opportunities for local engagement, and a prestigious awards platform to honor achievement, we help youth develop confidence in their ability to make a difference-confidence to make the world a better place. Our programs are unique in that they are deep and supported - focusing on skills-based service learning for each young person. There is a huge body of research that shows that youth-led, skills-based, service learning programs deliver a slew of 21st - century skills (empathy, tolerance, understanding of difference, project management, communications, etc.). We are the one organization in this country that delivers this on a national basis."
The organization also runs large recognition-based programs with both the media and corporations. Their Media Partners "work with us to recognize and elevate the best of their communities, and in doing so, position their brands to multiply good. These partners are television, radio, and newspapers who take the brand of the Jefferson Awards and use their media platforms to tell the stories of grassroots, unsung heroes in their communities. By systematically telling good news stories in the context of our national brand, each Media Partner drives non-traditional revenue and enhances audience stickiness."
Their corporate and organization partners are some of the country's most successful entities. Representing more than eight million employees, these partners use Multiplying Good's recognition platform to celebrate the service work their employees are doing in and for their communities. This recognition empowers and motivates employees, leads to greater productivity, and drives entire workplace cultures.
There is no typical day for Schafer. The responsibilities of a non-profit CEO range from finance to donor relations, from communications and storytelling to program design and implementation, and building and executing world-class events. "My day starts before everyone else wakes up, making long and detailed to-do lists of what success looks like that day. I often take the early- morning hours to work on budgets and deep behind-the-scenes work. I then spend time with my children (ages 12, 10, and 3), getting them into their days, and fueling my own with their yumminess. Each day involves some donor relations piece, strategic planning, putting out fires, board management, staff management, and often some form of writing 'assignment.' I work very hard at maintaining balance - getting home most nights in time to cook dinner, help with homework, and generally giggle and cavort with my children and husband."
The future looks bright for Multiplying Good. Credited with spearheading the growth and impact of the organization, Schafer notes, "Our national partnerships have grown by 300 percent; seven new Leadership Communities have been added; 20,000 new youth leaders trained; and more than $200 million of public-service impact tracked from our five programs. We are positioned powerfully to scale in the next five years - to be the largest and most prestigious recognition platform for service in America, to build a national community of service 200,000 strong, and to actively engage more than one million young people a year in meaningful youth-led service."
Schafer explains that her interest in public service developed early on. "As a young person, I was painfully shy. Yet when I spent time planting trees or working in homeless and women's shelters, I felt confident and competent, and was deeply moved by the incredible joy of helping someone else. While I couldn't articulate it then, service to others was transformative for me. I viscerally understood its power. Now, I get to translate that to hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of Americans." These days and, owing to an East African history course she took while at Middlebury "that was as much about public speaking technique as it was about East African history," she has become a comfortable speaker. "Now, I love getting up in front of a crowd. I still hate walking into a crowded room where I don't know anyone, but all those jitters fade away for me when I'm on a stage."
Her greatest joy comes when "I see the look on a young person's face when they are telling me something they are passionate about and what they are going to do to fix it. And I love when they look me in the eye and say they couldn't have done it but for the confidence and skills we gave them."
Schafer, whose world has long included Hotchkiss in one way or another, remembers fondly her time in Lakeville. "I am a terrible correspondent but remain close with a handful of classmates. More significantly, I feel a real affinity to Hotchkiss and its graduates - both those I knew and those I didn't."
To learn more, visit: multiplyinggood.org.