Susan King is from California, and came to Jacksonville for a job transfer.
"I was born in San Diego, and went to high school there. My father was a Navy helicopter pilot, so there was a lot of moving around in between. I became an accountant, and got a job right of college with KPMG in New Orleans. A few years later, I transferred to Jacksonville to take a tax position. I had some friends, moved to the beach, and never left."
After working in accounting, Susan held several executive positions in other firms. Then she decided to leave the business world entirely. She heard about an opening for executive director of BEAM, the Beaches Emergency Assistance Ministry, a 30-year-old nonprofit that provided rent assistance and other services at the beaches.
"I had wanted to move into the non-profit sector. It was in my heart, but I had two kids in college, and thought it was just a pipe dream. But when they graduated, I heard about this job — and my husband went along with it. I just felt a passion for the work, and I have not been disappointed one day since I came to work here."
That was almost four years ago. Susan brought her financial management experience to bear right away.
"The organization was not in great shape financially, so it was a great opportunity to use my financial expertise to help the organization. We've made a lot of changes in those four years. Thirty years ago, it was a checkbook and a cabinet with some canned goods, started by some local ministers. Our mission is always to help people through financial crises, so that people don't fall off that cliff that can land you on the street."
Susan learned quickly, as many non-profit executives do, that fundraising is job number one.
"I probably knew it, but didn't really assimilate it into my day-to-day. It's all about cultivating donor relations, being a good steward of those donations, grant writing ... you're always looking to keep your agency on solid ground."
The workload is heavier than she expected.
"You really can't turn it off. It's not a 9-to-5 jobs, because so many of the meetings and speaking engagements are in the evenings and on weekends. The demands of the job are more than I had imagined, but the rewards far exceed anything than I could have imagined. You can personally impact someone's life and change it for the better.
She's picked up new skills including public speaking.
"I probably know a lot more people! An accountant is not exactly out there. I meet a lot more people now, raising money and talking about our mission. I find that if you are passionate, it's a lot easier. I hear the most articulate, amazing speakers since I've been in the non-profit sector, and I think it's because passion makes you eloquent."
And as much as Susan King has changed the organization she heads, the job has changed her, as well.
"I have a much greater empathy for what people go through. Everybody needs a little help sometime. We say here that we can't help everybody, but no one leaves here without hope."