The Houston Livestock Show has given more than $100 million to Texas youth in state colleges and universities since 1957, currently supporting 441 Texas A&M students with scholarships. The annual three-week show provides students with opportunities to intern in an events-atmosphere and relies on 17,000 volunteers to generate enough revenue to fund the show’s numerous scholarships and educational commitments.Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo’s Chief Operating Officer Skip Wagner told students in Ben Welch’s Management 105 class that the philanthropy of running a nonprofit organization has to sometimes serve as its own best reward.

That means, Wagner said in a February guest-lecture detailing the fundamentals of operating a $15-million-a-year nonprofit, that your pay isn’t as high as that of executives in the for-profit business world. But, he explained, “you have to have an intrinsic reward system that says youth and education is worth working for.”

He told more than 400 students that his nonprofit leverages the strength and quality of its volunteer program to generate enough revenues to invest in education. That affects the Houston show’s measure of success, which isn’t judged by the bottom line, but depends on whether the people who give their time are having fun while doing so.

Outlining his roundabout path from a chemical engineering degree and his MBA at Harvard to management consultant firm McKinsey & Company, Wagner told the students to have fun and not think too far down the road about where they might end up next. Excel at what you do, he told them, and people will invest in you. The important thing is that you return the favor, he said.

“Give back in ways you can’t imagine,” Wagner said. “Give back to people and places that helped put that jingle in your jeans when you get it.”