After graduating law school in 1973, Janice Zarro went to work for the House Judiciary Committee involved in the impeachment case against President Nixon. “My assignment was to help with the media, reporters like Connie Chung, Sam Donaldson and Leslie Stahl,” she says. From that job Zarro jumped to the corporate world, heading the Washington, D.C., office of Avon Products in the 1980s and Mallinckrodt Inc., a pharmaceutical company, in the 1990s. She and her husband moved to Florida in 2003, and he noticed a newspaper article about the Women’s Resource Center of Sarasota County executive director search. “He said, ‘I hate to show this to you because you will love it, and I will never see you again.’” Zarro, now 64, was hired.
What are your responsibilities? I oversee 14 employees, four sites and 350 volunteers. We are a nonprofit offering education, networking and support, and referral services for more than 12,000 women in Sarasota County. Our annual budget is $1.2 million.
Your biggest challenge? Donations. Our budget is about the same as when I started, but it’s harder to get that money, which comes from individual donations, foundations, grants and memberships. About 23 percent comes from our consignment shop, Encore!&more.
Donors today? You can’t just ask for money because you want to do good. Donors want you to show results and impact, and you have to be transparent about this.
How have your clients changed? We deal with more complex problems due to the economy. We used to see women who were in divorce. Now it’s women with housing problems. Their credit cards are maxed out. They don’t have health insurance. We have increased our services even though our budget is the same.
Your proudest achievement? Instituting a successful Returnship Program in response to the downturn in the economy. This has helped women get comprehensive training to re-enter the job market.
What do you do best? Multitasking. To manage a not-for-profit today, you have to be flexible, move from one task to another at almost lightning speed and laser focus. I get weary, but I am good at it.
What are you not so good at? I am not touchy-feely in the way some people might expect. I have a passion for our mission, but I come at it from a legal and business background of being analytical, assessing the facts, using a business model.
Your favorite book? Joel Osteen’s book, Your Best Life Now: 7 Steps to Living at Your Full Potential. In this job you have to think big. Your vision has to be beyond your reach so that you energize yourself and your staff and you give more to clients.