Interview With WPI Alumnus, Ronnie King

Ronnie King (pictured far right)

Ronnie King ’15 is the president and founder of Scratchwerk Technology, an active community volunteer, and a husband and father of two girls. He serves on the Board of Trustees for the Jacksonville Public Library, where he previously served as Chair, and the Jacksonville Public Education Fund. Ronnie is a co-founder of the MyVillage Project, a collective giving fund managed with The Community Foundation for Northeast Florida, and the current president of the 100 Black Men of Jacksonville. He has also served on the boards for Jacksonville Urban League and Hubbard House.

Ronnie has held leadership positions in several community organizations including National Society of Black Engineers, Mentoring Families and Kids, National Pan-Hellenic Council, and the Urban Education Symposium. He is also a proud member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, and served as president of the Jacksonville graduate chapter. Additionally, Ronnie is a graduate of Leadership Jacksonville (Class of 2011) and the Weaver Philanthropic Initiative (Class of 2015).

He recently took the time to share with Caroline Briton ’10 how his mother influenced his philanthropy as an adult and the most innovative thing that’s been happening for decades within the philanthropic community.

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Q: What do you do in your daily life?

A: I run a software consultant firm called Scratchwerk, LLC. We primarily work with insurance companies to build claim processing software, as well as assist companies with developer staffing. In addition, we provide instructional code training and mentoring for students and adults that are interested in becoming software developers.

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Q: You are an active community volunteer. What drew you to a life of serving your community?

A:  My draw to serving in the community started with my mother’s example. My father served in the military, while my mother was very active in our community back in Tampa, FL. She had a heart for kids and used almost all her time to help other students in my school whose living conditions weren’t as fortunate as ours. As far back as I can remember, our home became a place where my friends and their parents came for support. This could be as simple as math tutoring for teammates, or even a hot meal for struggling families. My mother had an ongoing presence at all of my schools, including participating in parent teacher conferences for students with parents who were unable to attend. Although we lived off the military income salary of my father, I naively believed we were wealthy given the contrast to those I was regularly surrounded by. As an adult I’ve come to realize just how much time and resources she spent giving back, and I try my best to continue that effort today.

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Q: What is a lesson you’ve learned about building a stronger community?

A: I’ve learned that we have to include the entire community if we have any chance at building a stronger community. It is critical that the demographic we’re seeking to help is the same one leading from the front. Simply asking for input isn’t enough. This can lead to a continuous miscalculation of the actual changes needed in those communities.

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Q: You have served on several nonprofit boards. Do you find you are drawn to a particular type of board service (finance, governance, programs, etc.)?

A: I’m drawn to programming. The term “data-driven” gets misused often, and it is important to make sure the services we provide are effective. I’m passionate about organizations making a more significant impact. I tend to encourage groups to take the emotions out it and pursue short-term measurable outcomes that aren’t subjective. It’s also critical to build programs that are scalable city-wide and state-wide. Helping just one person matters, but we have to figure out how to help 100,000 people at a time if we have a shot at sustained success.

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Q: What do you see as innovative in the philanthropic world?

A: The most innovative thing I’ve seen has actually been happening for decades, and that is the ability of underfunded Black nonprofits to continuously serve and provide programming for their communities. These include our African American Greek organizations, churches, and so many other nonprofits that are 100% volunteer led and operate with minimal financial contributions compared to their counterparts. Their ability to remain active and provide quality programming year after year is by far the most innovative activity in the philanthropic world.

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Q: What do you like most about living in Northeast Florida?

A: I like that Jacksonville is a big city with a small town connections. Ideas can be implemented quickly here, and the impact can be seen faster.

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Q: What challenges concern you most about Northeast Florida?

A: Ironically, the fact that Jacksonville is a big city with small town connections. Too often it’s only a small group of people making the decisions that affect our city. This dynamic can serve as a roadblock to innovative ideas and bringing new people to the table.

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Q: When did your path first cross with The Community Foundation for Northeast Florida?

A: I first became aware of The Community Foundation for Northeast Florida (TCF) and its work through volunteering with the Jacksonville Public Education Fund. But the Weaver Philanthropic Initiative (WPI) was my first official connection to TCF.

Through WPI, I went on to co-found the MyVillage Project with my fellow cohort members, Darryl Willie and Imani Hope. It is a collective giving fund managed with TCF, and designed to support the efforts of underfunded Black nonprofits in Northeast Florida.

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Q: What concepts or experiences from participating in the Weaver Philanthropic Initiative have proven valuable to your philanthropy?

A: I learned about the work of the Women’s Giving Alliance (WGA) through the Weaver Philanthropic Initiative. I loved WGA’s concept and the way the giving circle has organized its model of philanthropy. The Women’s Giving Alliance served as an inspiration for the MyVillage Project Community Fund. With the benefit of several small donations, we’ve been blessed to give out initial grants to 10 nonprofits in our community. We’re still in the process of seeing what works best for us in terms of raising funds, but we’re excited about the opportunity to build a platform that can continue to give well into the future. We’ve also started the MyVillage Project Leadership Institute, which is 6-month city-wide program for emerging African American leaders in Northeast Florida. We’ve graduated 16 individuals in our first class, and we’re organizing our second cohort this year.