Westmont Magazine The Rewards of a Second Career
After Working in Washington, an Alumna Finds Fulfillment Advising Charities
Kristen Schultz ’98 wanted to do something to change the world and thought she’d make the biggest impact through politics. That’s why she chose the law school track at Westmont, majored in philosophy to learn to think and to write and minored in economics and business. At UCLA School of Law she edited the Law Review and spent a semester in Washington, D.C., with a firm that specializes in election law. After graduating, she moved east to become over-sight counsel to the U.S. House Committee on the Judiciary and enforce federal civil rights law. That position led to a presidential appointment as counsel to the assistant secretary of education, heading up the department’s legal enforcement. But three years after arriving in Washington, she decided it was time to leave.
“I got to live out my dream of going to D.C.,” she says. “It was exciting and transforming to be involved in government, politics, congressional hearings and work for the president, but the pace was unbelievable. It was also challenging to work on legislation and not have it passed.”
Kristen has discovered she can make a difference in a completely unexpected way: helping charities raise money. For three years, she has worked for Crescendo, the family business. Her father founded the firm in 1984 to create software for non-profit organizations assisting donors with long-range gift planning.
“I never planned to work for my dad,” Kristen says. “I moved far away from home after law school. But I think I’m making more of a difference now than I did in D.C. — I see a lot of charities doing things better than government and being so involved in their communities. Also, when I come up with an idea at Crescendo, I can make it happen. There is so much you can do in a small business that you can’t do in government with all the red tape.”
When her father, Charles, offered her a job, it wasn’t as an attorney. She moved back to California to develop the company’s growing interactive business on the Web. A year ago, she switched to the legal side of the business to do tax planning, educate clients and provide advice on the company’s software and Internet services. She is working on a master’s degree in tax law at Loyola School of Law and has become a specialist in gift planning and a frequent speaker at workshops and seminars nationwide designed for gift planning professionals and non-profit organizations.
Kristen invests her considerable energy in her second career, and she loves her work. She doesn’t mind the traveling, speaking and studying, because of the results she achieves. “It’s rewarding to help so many worthy causes,” she says. “It’s all by the grace of God — he has directed my steps.”
Her Washington experience and contacts have proved useful; Crescendo lobbied for recently enacted legislation that allows seniors 70.5 years of age to transfer tax-free up to $100,000 from an IRA to a charity. The company provides information about the law on their Web site — Kristen even taped an on-demand Webcast in the studio Crescendo has built so they can provide up-to-date information to their clients.
She understands why donors support non-profit organizations because she knows how she feels about Westmont. “I built lasting relationships with students and professors, and I believe in what the college is doing,” she says. “I find it rewarding to make a gift. Every dollar really counts now because there is such a need for facilities — they will make a big difference for students.”
Kristen says people are never too young to consider their legacy. “No matter what your age or income, you should think about your charitable intentions,” she says. “What do you want to do to make a difference? If everyone gave just 5-10 percent of their IRA to a charity, what an impact! Everyone can give something. What is dear and near to your heart? Support that and see what a difference it makes. You will find it rewarding.”