Mary Jo Capps

Reinventing your inner female boss

If the door of opportunity closes on you, what do you do? Well it's simple, you reinvent your inner female boss.

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If the door of opportunity closes on you, what do you do? Well it’s simple, you reinvent your inner female boss.

In her twenties, Mary Jo Capp arrived in Sydney to chase career opportunities in the arts, but instead of a warm reception, she found a lot of closed doors.

In this interview with The Constant Investor, Mary Jo shares how she started her own consultancy serving not-for-profits in the arts.

“I found the gap at that stage was organisational matters, I could organise things well in the arts industry and the big emerging area, in development at that time, was raising money from corporate sponsors and private donors.

“It was a whole new scene, nobody knew what the rule book was here, so we got to make up our own” says Mary Jo.

One of her biggest learnings in sponsorship is helpful advice for not-for-profits seeking funds; let corporate sponsors outline the benefits they want for their investment, rather than the not-for-profit dream up how the funds will improve the sponsor’s business.

What’s Mary Jo’s advice for corporates who may be peering over the fence at the not-for-profit grass, wondering if it’s greener?

Whether you’re already working in a commercial job or just graduating and considering not for profit, here’s what you should do;

“I strongly urge people to volunteer for the organisation first.

“They get a flavour, they understand what happens and it’s not for everybody.

“It is hard yakka, all jobs are, there’s no easy path but I think it’s really helpful for someone to volunteer for the organisation first, just to see if it’s the right fit for them” she says.

As the chief executive of Australia’s oldest independent professional performing arts organisation, Musica Viva, Mary Jo had much to learn in the beginning around the financial ins and outs of running a not-for-profit.

While she’s now financially savvy in her business practices, she still advocates calling on the services of a finance professional when it comes to personal finances.

“I was very good at financial planning at work, not so great at home, although I do enjoy a spreadsheet, as everyone who know’s me would say!

“But then taking that spreadsheet to a professional to say “What does this look like?” in ten or 20 years ahead. That was probably one of the best investments we’ve made.”

Serving on multiple boards, it’s clear Mary Jo is passionate about giving her time and expertise to projects that create positive change in the community.

The tragic loss of her first husband fundamentally changed the way Mary Jo viewed life and her role in it.

“It made me realise you’re here for now, you have to make the most of every minute.

“You have to learn what you’re responsible for and what you’re not responsible for. That’s a big thing, particularly for women, to not feel responsible for everything. It made me more resilient in the end.

“The learning I got from it was getting on with every day, and giving it your utmost.”

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