Jason Karp – Affinaquest
Though the University of South Carolina football team didn’t compete for the national title this past fall, the Gamecocks did well at the gate and merchandise counter.
With much credit due to its five-year partnership with Affinaquest, the university acquired 4,500-plus new ticket buyers and more than 800 new donors, enhancing its bottom line by $2.25 million. Affinaquest is committed to transforming the landscape for institutional advancement and collegiate athletics departments, and it provided the university with a comprehensive suite of client data platforms, intelligence and CRM solutions. How the university used these tools to expand its revenue streams by nurturing connections with donors, fans and alumni who had previously remained unknown.
It’s far from alone. The University of South Carolina is one of several dozen schools to partner with Affinaquest to promote, among other things, their sports, education and health and medical programs. With nonprofits that include university-affiliated hospitals and academic medical centers rounding out Affinaquest’s clientele, Jason Karp says a greater cause is being served that he’s proud to boost as chief legal officer since April 2022.
“I’ve focused my career on missions that I believe in,” says Karp, who also serves as the company’s corporate secretary and chief human capital officer. “First, it was public safety, and now I am adding higher education, health care and university athletics. With all the government pullbacks on subsidies and drops in grants over the last 10 years, these critical institutions face challenges in raising funds to subsidize tuition and provide better services to our children and communities.”
Deepening data lake
As Karp explains, many of these institutions have not fully leveraged their fundraising potential due to their current data limitations, which restrict their understanding of their donors at a deep level. Affinaquest, the result of four tech-savvy companies merging before Karp’s entrance, is transitioning from data warehouse to data lake through investments in cloud-based platforms such as Snowflake.
By leveraging Snowflake to support Affinaquest’s central intelligence client data platform, Karp says the firm aggregates and cleans data to provide a single view of each constituent or fan–the golden record. Clients can leverage the golden record data to understand each constituent/fan deeply and efficiently manage their resources to meet or exceed fundraising initiatives.
“The Affinaquest solution is a big value-driver for our clients, not just a CRM platform for interacting with donors,” Karp says. “It enables visibility into a wealth of data for reaching donors and increasing incremental revenue for our higher education and medical center clients.”
Of course, a company dealing in data must adhere to privacy rules, for which Karp ensures compliance as a legal department of one. He’s got two full-timers and a part-timer to assist him on the human capital front, which he says is at least as important as overseeing legal.
“People are our biggest asset,” he tells Vanguard. “As we integrate people from different organizations, backgrounds and skill sets, we’re continuing to reshape and grow our culture and provide professional development opportunities as we work toward a common goal.”
With the last of the acquisitions complete just before Karp joined the company, he had much to integrate for personnel and technology. A self-described “tech evangelist” with an undergraduate degree in electrical engineering from Duke University, he speaks in the same tongue as his counterparts in the data center, and that’s helped Affinaquest implement new contract management.
“Integrating and supporting personnel is substantially more complicated than contracts,” notes Karp, citing the importance of transparency in communicating the company strategy. He collaborates with other executives, reviewing and adjusting pay scales and job frameworks to meet company goals and market expectations and ultimately driving toward a unified corporate culture.
For Karp, the Affinaquest role marks the latest in what he says has been a purposeful career with years to go.
With one of his three children still in school, a daughter at Shenandoah University, a son recently graduating from Tulane University, and a daughter now considering a return to trade school —Karp says he feels a vested interest in the well-being of higher education. After all, it certainly factored in his own success—his electrical engineering degree augmenting his credentials from New York University School of Law.
“My engineering background and love of technology conditions me to logically look at problems,” he says. “That helps me approach legal issues, human capital strategies, and business operational challenges with an analytical approach. It’s the best of both worlds—a 360-degree view.”
That view became sharper in the three years of private practice that followed his 1992 graduation from NYU School of Law. Though he appreciated his early work in insurance defense litigation, it didn’t suit his analytical mind. In early 1995, Karp took a position with the Federal Communications Commission, where he helped draft regulations for local number portability, which allows consumers to keep their mobile numbers when switching carriers. That launched Karp’s trajectory into telecom and technology.
Public safety and healthcare among his passions, he found a way to mix them from 2019 to 2020 while juggling several roles, including general counsel at Allerio, a mobile technologies firm with a telemedicine app that, since the COVID-19 pandemic, has taken much heat off first responders, EMS crews, doctors and nurses. Afterward, came a stint with Qumu, a Minnesota-headquartered video company, and finally to Affinaquest.
Karp maintains his commitment to the common good, having co-founded and continuing to serve on the board of The Public Safety Network, a technology and operational consulting company. Lately, he’s taken up a more person-to-person cause.
Having completed his certification as a health, wellness and life coach, Karp understands people from all walks of life need to embrace healthier habits—physically and mentally, particularly given the current geo-political climate. While there’s much to be discouraged about these days, he emphasizes the importance of sustaining hope and positivity.
“I’ve gone through my own life transformation and am assisting a couple of clients now to do the same,” he says. “Social and political upheaval, depression, suicide, stress—it’s at an all-time high, even in our country, not to mention Ukraine and the Middle East. It’s important to focus on what we can control to optimize our own happiness, enabling us to better look ahead, create new opportunities and be of service to others.”
Of course, sometimes we also need to look behind. Karp does that, too, sustaining his youthful and upbeat mindset by playing keyboards in a disco and rhythm-and-blues band. Getting down tonight with a tune from KC and The Sunshine Band or Earth or Wind & Fire isn’t just for those of his generation.
“The young people just love it,” he says. “Everyone has a great time and goes home happy, and that’s what we all should be about.”
View this feature in the Vanguard Winter I 2024 Edition here.
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