Marc Jaffe acknowledges that he had an unorthodox publishing career: “I’ve always had one foot in publishing, and one foot in the media/tech world.” In fact, he entered book publishing from the video game industry, by selling off part of the company he led to Warner Publishing. The range of jobs that followed included being recruited by Simon & Schuster to help lead its video and software publishing operations and traveling the world doing licensing deals for Franklin Electronic Publishers, one of the industry’s first digital reference publishers. In more traditional publishing, Jaffe held a prominent leadership position at Rodale, where he oversaw the launch of one of that company’s biggest hits—the South Beach Diet franchise.
After leaving book publishing in 2005, Jaffe became the CEO of a private-equity-backed photo-personalization and video publishing business; he then found himself consulting on transmedia for a roster of clients, including book publishing companies and brands. Getting the itch to operate a company again but wanting to make a bigger difference in people’s lives, he signed on with an organization that places interim executive directors at nonprofits. This led to his next job, serving as CEO of the nonprofit organization Childcare Learning Centers (CLC), of Stamford, Ct.
Jaffe, who lives in Old Greenwich, Ct., first joined CLC in early 2014, when he stepped into the interim role expecting to continue his consulting practice while overseeing CLC. Jaffe was enjoying the job and saw the impact he was making, and when the time came to hire a permanent director, he was more than willing to accept the search committee’s offer to stay on. “I found that my skill set was a perfect fit for CLC,” Jaffe said. “What the organization needed was not an educator, but a particular kind of leader, revenue generator, and visionary.”
As Jaffe sees it, his strengths include the brand-, team-, and relationship-building skills he honed in the private sector, which he put to use immediately upon landing at CLC. With a $14 million budget allocated across seven locations, CLC is one of Stamford’s largest nonprofits and serves nearly 1,000 children annually, providing early-childhood education for children ages six weeks to five years. Despite being a 113-year-old organization, however, CLC did not have strong name recognition across the city. Jaffe saw this as an urgent need (and opportunity) and went to work with his brand-building skills.
Fund-raising is another key aspect of his job, and here Jaffe drew on decades of working with a variety of charities. He has long been involved with the UJA Federation publishing committee and in 1991 helped launch Harlem RBI, an organization that began as a way to provide inner-city youths with sports and other programs; it went on to found the Dream Charter School. Kensington Publishing founder Walter Zacharius was an early supporter of RBI, recruited by Jaffe. Other supporters included leaders from Scholastic, Random House, and Macmillan. Although Jaffe has yet to reach out to publishers as part of his fund-raising efforts, many, such as Scholastic, have provided support through book donations.
Jaffe couldn’t be happier in his new role. “I have never been more energized and engaged,” he said. “It’s far and away the most complex business I’ve run, but also where I can have the greatest impact. There’s something new every day, and confronting and meeting myriad challenges has been deeply gratifying.” That includes getting ready for CLC’s annual gala, which was held April 25. One of the honorees was author, speaker, and educator Sharon Robinson, who grew up in Stamford and is published by Scholastic. “Producing this gala,” Jaffe said, “has brought together different parts of my world and past in the most unexpected and exciting ways.”