Joe Donovan was born in Fort Knox, Kentucky, and perhaps that may help to explain in a small way why much of what he has touched in his career has turned to gold.
Currently serving as the executive director of the Mississippi Center of Non-Profits, and, as the head of the Entrepreneurial Development program at Millsaps, Joe is quite comfortable wearing both hats.
He lived in Cincinnati for a good part of his early working career. After attending college at the University of Cincinnati (and ultimately earning an MBA at Millsaps), Joe began his career as a paramedic in Cincinnati and ultimately wound up serving as chief there. After a successful 18-year career, he came to Mississippi in 1992 with AMR and became CEO. During this period, he completed his MBA, and 1999, he became a principal in a “small health services company,” which grew from annual sales of $5 million to over $60 million in four years.
After the sale of that company, and not being one to rest on his laurels, he was involved in forming another company that grew to $45 million in sales, and was ultimately sold in 2010.
Joe Donovan is probably the epitome of a successful entrepreneur.
“I really love helping to grow companies and make them super successful,” he said. “But I have to confess that I’m not nearly as excited about running a company in a ‘maintenance’ capacity.”
Having had the opportunity to know many successful Mississippi entrepreneurs in recent years, I’ve learned that this is a common trait among them…namely, they love the thrill of building something, but when it’s built, they’re ready for the next challenge.
It’s probably no surprise that in 2011, Joe took on the challenge of the Entrepreneurial Development program at Millsaps for undergraduate and graduate students so inclined.
“We have fivw faculty members, and we work with about 40 undergraduate and 15 graduate students,” he said. “I believe some of our programs are unique in the Southeast.”
Then, in 2012, he assumed the position of executive director for the Mississippi Center for Non-Profits. Joe sees no incongruity whatever in the 2 separate roles he plays.
“A part of our mission at the Center is to provide the education, know-how, and tools to help non-profits succeed, to be better, more efficient, and cost-effective at managing their institutions.”
In a way, he thinks, it’s the same challenge as growing a successful business.
“Every year, you have to be better than you were the year before,” he said, “and unfortunately, many people who become active in non-profits are not involved initially because they have great business skills, but because they truly care about their communities and want to do good works.”
As Joe puts it, the Center is a “resource center” for non-profits, helping to train those who work and manage the non-profits.
“The better job we do to help improve these institutions, the better they serve the needs of their end users, the more that saves the state,” he said.
All told, the Center provides 80 workshops a year, providing executive-level training for 501c3 managers. The Center has been in existence for 22 years, and serves approximately 325 different non-profits throughout Mississippi. It’s an ambitious endeavor for an entity with only three employees, but Joe points to “great work” being done throughout Mississippi, in cooperation with the Association of Professional Fundraisers, the Association of Grantmakers and others. There is an annual conference that draws all of these folks together to work on improving the general climate and effectiveness of non-profits.
“All things considered, my two jobs are some of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done,” he said. “At Millsaps, we’re working actively to help in the redevelopment of midtown, and I do see great things on the horizon.”
At this point, Joe Donovan is enjoying life. He and his wife, Patricia, have six grown children, 11 grandchildren, and “one on the way”.
“Mississippi is a great place to live, and it’s my favorite place to do business,” he said. “We have a government that is supportive and interested in helping to solve problems and move Mississippi forward economically, and as challenging as some of those problems are, I really believe we’re going to turn the corner and head into a bright future.”
A short video interview with Joe can be seen on our website, MSBusiness.com, or on our YouTube channel, mbjournal.
Contact Mississippi Business Journal publisher Alan Turner at firstname.lastname@example.org or (601) 364-1021.