Nine Months That Changed Everything

As a father of six children, I have personally experienced the monumental difference that nine months can make in a life. Apparently, that applies to charities as well. During the last three fiscal quarters, the leadership of the Boys and Girls Club of Door County has made dramatic changes and is successfully addressing its financial crisis.

Quite simply, the organization had become a victim of its own success. After opening the David G. Hatch Center in 2016, it had more activity space than ever before. With good hearts and the right spirit, its leadership threw the doors wide open and invited in every child who needed its resources.

Unlike a business in which new customers translate into more profits, whenever a new group of kids walks through the door, the Boys and Girls Club loses more money. Most of its children could never afford to pay the full cost of the services they receive, yet the organization must always maintain a ratio of at least one adult for every 15 kids. More kids mean greater costs but almost no new revenue. It’s a nonprofit precisely because there is no profit to be made.

Throughout 2018, the Boys and Girls Club was running an absolutely alarming deficit. It had to borrow money to meet its current obligations and was having difficulty covering payroll. That’s when its leadership came to visit us at the Door County Community Foundation.

After a painstakingly thorough evaluation of the Boys and Girls Club’s financial crisis and proposed workout plan, we at the Community Foundation felt confident enough to encourage the people of Door County to join us in giving the organization a second chance to thrive. We sent letters to our friends, and I wrote the column “Don’t You Quit.” I’m pleased to report that not only did our community give the Boys and Girls Club that second chance, but it’s now well on its way to thriving.

Since the crisis began, the Community Foundation has been receiving regular strategic and financial reports and has met with the organization’s leadership on several occasions. Our most recent meeting was just a few days ago with CEO Julie Davis, CFO Cindy Neuville, and board member Erich Pfeifer. I’m pleased to report that things are trending in a very optimistic direction.

On the revenue side of the ledger, consultants were brought in to help implement proven strategies to acquire new donors, and a stewardship committee was formed to better engage current donors. As a result, the number of donors increased by 29 percent. Nationally, the average donor-retention rate (the percentage of last year’s donors who gave again this year) typically hovers around 45 percent. The Boys and Girls Club’s rate is 61 percent.

On the expense side, the organization has consolidated operations and found efficiencies in how it deploys staff. As a result, payroll was cut by 14 percent, and overall expenses were reduced by 17 percent compared to the fiscal year before the crisis began.

Of course, all of these changes come with a human cost. The Boys and Girls Club cannot afford to serve the same number of children that it did a year ago. Then again, the reality is that it couldn’t afford to serve all those kids last year either. The only way it was possible then was to borrow money and go into debt.

Gratefully, because of our community’s generosity over the last few months, the organization is now completely debt free.

The fundamental causes of this financial crisis were overly optimistic revenue assumptions combined with exceedingly aggressive program expansion. Although that was a strategic mistake and a long-term recipe for disaster, we should pause to celebrate the spirit behind those decisions.

Within the leaders of our Boys and Girls Club is the compelling and sometimes overwhelming desire to help every child who needs them. That’s the kind of spirit we want in those who run the organization. Yet we also need the leadership of human-service organizations to make sure that their hearts remain in balance with their heads. Although we may want to rescue everyone who’s fallen into the water, we must also ensure that we aren’t so overwhelmed that we end up sinking the boat.

The Boys and Girls Club has used our community’s recent generosity wisely. It has plans for future growth, but those plans are realistic and appropriate, and they should be implemented at a far more measured pace. Thankfully, it appears that the Boys and Girls Club of Door County will be here for our children for many years to come.

This article, written by Community Foundation President and CEO, Bret Bicoy, originally appeared in the Peninsula Pulse.

Sustainability Grant Awarded to Leadership Door County

The Women’s Fund of Door County has awarded Leadership Door County a Sustainability Grant. This grant will support emerging women leaders in our community.

“Leadership Door County has been exploring Door County and creating an awareness of its resources and services since its inception,” said Patsy Vollrath, Board Member of the Women’s Fund of Door County. “We are pleased to award this grant as Leadership Door County is uniquely qualified to seek emerging female leaders in the community and encourage them to use their developed leadership skills to support the community in addressing key issues and creating and enriching the environment in Door County.”

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Pictured from left to right are Dawn Vandevoort, President of Leadership Door County, and Patsy Vollrath, Secretary of the Women’s Fund of Door County.

Leadership Door County brings together community members who have diverse viewpoints to become stronger leaders and to understand community issues through experiential education. For more information on Leadership Door County, please visit http://leadershipdoorcounty.com/.

The Door County Community Foundation’s Sustainability Grants program distributes grant dollars from funds such as the Arts Fund, Children & Youth Fund, Green Fund, Health & Human Needs Fund, Education Fund, Historic Preservation Fund, Healthy Water Fund, and Women’s Fund.

For more information about the Community Foundation’s services and various grant programs, please visit www.GiveDoorCounty.org.

The Door County Community Foundation, Inc. is a collection of separate charitable funds set up by individuals, families, non-profit organizations, private foundations and businesses that are managed, invested and disbursed for the current and future good of Door County. The Community Foundation was launched in 1999, currently administers more than $22 million in assets, and distributes nearly $2 million to charities in Door County every year.

 

Community Foundation Awards Sustainability Grant to Lakeshore CAP

The Door County Community Foundation recently awarded Lakeshore CAP a Sustainability Grant from the Ruth & Hartley Barker Memorial Fund for JAK’s Place.

JAK’s Place, a program of Lakeshore CAP, is a peaceful, quiet place where consumers diagnosed and learning to function with their very individual mental illness diagnosis can find the tools they need to help cope and ultimately recover.

“JAK’s Place serves as a mental health resource providing structured and social programming all facilitated by professional volunteers at no cost to the consumers,” said Kacie Mueller, Community Relations Officer at the Door County Community Foundation. “Last year, they served over 200 community members and we are pleased to support the mission of JAK’s Place, as well as their future consumers.”

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From left to right, Kacie Mueller, Community Relations Officer of the Door County Community Foundation, and Jane Herlitz, JAK’s Place Program Director.

JAK’s Place is Lakeshore CAP’s unique local response to the shortage of mental health facilities and practitioners in rural Northeastern Wisconsin.  Known as a mental health drop in center, JAK’s Place empowers adults with diagnosed mental illness by building support and providing the resources to move toward recovery.

For more information about JAK’s Place, please call (920) 818-0525 or visit https://lakeshorecap.org/jaks-place/.

The Door County Community Foundation’s Sustainability Grants program distributes grant dollars from funds such as the Arts Fund, Children & Youth Fund, Green Fund, Health & Human Needs Fund, Education Fund, Historic Preservation Fund, Healthy Water Fund, and Women’s Fund.

For more information about the Community Foundation’s services and various grant programs, please visit www.GiveDoorCounty.org.

The Door County Community Foundation, Inc. is a collection of separate charitable funds set up by individuals, families, non-profit organizations, private foundations and businesses that are managed, invested and disbursed for the current and future good of Door County. The Community Foundation was launched in 1999, currently administers more than $22 million in assets, and distributes nearly $2 million to charities in Door County every year.

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Charity, with a Glass of Wine

At the Door County Community Foundation, we recently learned some really interesting things about each other. One of our board members wrote a musical. A member of our professional staff used to dress up as Clifford the Big Red Dog at public events for PBS. The husband of a board member wrote the definitive history of U.S. Senator Philip Hart, for whom the Hart Senate Office Building is named. A member of our team even learned that the “scary” board member is actually “really funny” and a “nice person.”

These are just a few of the things we learned about each other when we and our spouses gathered outside the office to spend some time together as colleagues, volunteers and friends. Gather a group of people who share a common mission, add a few glasses of wine, mix in a couple of plates of hors d’oeuvres and suddenly you find yourself enjoying each other in a whole new and refreshing way.

According to the respected nonprofit governance experts at BoardSource, the leadership of a charity is two and a half times more likely to work as a collaborative team when it deliberately creates social opportunities. In corporations across America, there are many examples of exercises and activities that companies use to build stronger teams, yet too often team building is seen as a wasteful expense in the nonprofit world. A common criticism is that we should be spending our money on our charitable mission, not on an evening of wine and cheese for our nonprofit board and professional staff.

Private companies, however, invest enormous amounts of time and money to build stronger interpersonal bonds among their people precisely because this investment delivers business value to the organization. A strong team fosters good communication and better problem-solving. It encourages camaraderie, which is essential for a motivated workplace. It leads to more satisfied employees, which promotes better customer relations and lower employee turnover. In essence, a strong team creates a synergy where the whole is greater than the sum of the individual parts. Businesses invest in socializing and team-building activities precisely because they’re good for business.

As important as team building is in the for-profit world, it’s arguably even more important for the charities of our community for one simple reason: Private companies don’t need volunteers to get their work done.

At a for-profit business, employees tend to interact with each other on a frequent, if not daily basis. Although companies still choose to invest in team-building activities to foster strong interpersonal relations, those bonds are reinforced organically through the daily interactions among co-workers.

At a charity, those regular interactions can be more rare. Even the most involved volunteers might interact with each other and the professional staff only a few times a month. Some boards of directors, like that of the Community Foundation, meet as a whole only four times a year. If we are not deliberate in building vibrant interpersonal bonds among the volunteer board and professional staff, they might never develop at all.

Further, although building a strong sense of teamwork at a charity has all of the same benefits that you’d find in a for-profit business, there is the added benefit to nonprofits of increased volunteer retention. At a corporation, everyone is paid to be there. A charity’s professional staff is obviously paid as well, but by definition, its volunteers are not. If volunteer board members do not find their service experience rewarding or do not appreciate their time spent with colleagues, they will likely resign before their work is truly done.

A board member who reports a strong sense of teamwork among colleagues and the professional staff is almost four times more likely to fully serve out the board term.

BoardSource notes that social opportunities are a critical ingredient in a charity’s organizational culture and overall board satisfaction. Being intentional about creating strong interpersonal bonds makes a real difference in how the board functions, how it interacts with the professional staff and organizational effectiveness as a whole, yet fewer than half of charities report investing in social activities that promote a sense of teamwork.

So gather together your board, professional staff and their spouses and partners over a glass of wine and some hors d’oeuvres. If don’t know how, invite me, and I’ll gladly show you how to have a nice time with your friends and colleagues – especially if it’s a good glass of wine.

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This article was written by Bret Bicoy, President and CEO of the Door County Community Foundation, and originally appeared in the Peninsula Pulse

Sturgeon Bay Visitor Center Receives Grant from Community Foundation

The Door County Community Foundation recently awarded the Sturgeon Bay Visitor Center a Sustainability Grant from the Ruth and Hartley Barker Memorial Fund for the Door County Wayfinding Initiative. This initiative will link our communities together as a unified and economically strong destination experience through the use of vehicular and/or pedestrian wayfinding signage.

“We are pleased to support this Door initiative,” said Marcia Smith, Chair of the Door County Community Foundation. “To have the continuity throughout the peninsula and onto Washington Island would help enrich the visitors’ experience.”

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Pam Seiler, Executive Director of the Sturgeon Bay Visitor Center and Marcia Smith, Chair of the Door County Community Foundation.

The Sturgeon Bay Visitor Center (SBVC) is dedicated to promoting Sturgeon Bay as Door County’s premier destination to live, work, stay and play. For more information on the SBVC, please call  920-743-6246 or visit https://www.sturgeonbay.net/

The Door County Community Foundation’s Sustainability Grants program distributes grant dollars from funds such as the Arts Fund, Children & Youth Fund, Green Fund, Health & Human Needs Fund, Education Fund, Historic Preservation Fund, Healthy Water Fund, and Women’s Fund.

For more information about the Community Foundation’s services and various grant programs, please visit www.GiveDoorCounty.org.

The Door County Community Foundation, Inc. is a collection of separate charitable funds set up by individuals, families, non-profit organizations, private foundations and businesses that are managed, invested and disbursed for the current and future good of Door County. The Community Foundation was launched in 1999, currently administers more than $22 million in assets, and distributes nearly $2 million to charities in Door County every year.

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Community Foundation Awards Sustainability Grant to FISC

The Door County Community Foundation recently awarded FISC Consumer Credit Counseling of Door County, Inc. a Sustainability Grant from Martha Cherry Fund, the Elizabeth “Betty” Lawrence Human Services Fund, and the Health and Human Needs Fund.

FISC provides confidential, non-judgmental 1-1 budget & credit, homebuyer & student loan counseling & education to residents of all income levels and issues.

“FISC helps families and individuals in our community improve the quality of their lives by teaching financial literacy and providing tools to promote the application of sound financial principles,” said Rob Davis, Board Member of the Door County Community Foundation. “The Community Foundation is proud to support FISC and its mission.”

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Pictured: Leslie Boden, Executive Director of FISC, and Rob Davis, Board Member of the Door County Community Foundation, Inc.

FISC is a 501(c)(3) non-profit budget and credit counseling agency and the only agency of its kind serving Door County. Theu are a licensed consumer credit counseling service, accredited by the Council on Accreditation and a member of the National Foundation for Consumer Credit. Money Management Counselors powered by FI$C/CCCS opened in Door County in 1994.

 

For more information FISC, please call (920) 743-1862 or visit https://www.moneymanagementcounselors.com/.

 

The Door County Community Foundation’s Sustainability Grants program distributes grant dollars from funds such as the Arts Fund, Children & Youth Fund, Green Fund, Health & Human Needs Fund, Education Fund, Historic Preservation Fund, Healthy Water Fund, and Women’s Fund.

For more information about the Community Foundation’s services and various grant programs, please visit www.GiveDoorCounty.org.

The Door County Community Foundation, Inc. is a collection of separate charitable funds set up by individuals, families, non-profit organizations, private foundations and businesses that are managed, invested and disbursed for the current and future good of Door County. The Community Foundation was launched in 1999, currently administers more than $22 million in assets, and distributes nearly $2 million to charities in Door County every year.

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Principles of Collaboration

Collaboration has become one of the trendiest ideas in the nonprofit world. Donors and grantmakers are increasingly demanding it, and the charities are responding accordingly. Generally speaking, this is a good thing.

A strong and robust collaborative partnership leads to greater organizational efficiencies and increased effectiveness, and it can accelerate the speed of social and/or systems change. The problem is that too many efforts at collaboration are anything but strong and robust. Donors and grantmakers have put so much pressure on charities to collaborate that partnerships are now being formed simply to relieve that pressure.

The problem is that although a good collaborative partnership can lead to better outcomes, a bad collaboration isn’t just benign: A poorly constructed collaboration can actually hinder a community’s ability to achieve its goals.

Morten Hansen, a management professor at the University of California-Berkeley, conducted a comprehensive study on collaborations. He spent 15 years examining how different teams work with each other to achieve a shared goal. Hansen said that the greatest surprise in his research was the realization that bad collaboration can lead to far worse outcomes than if the partners simply chose not to collaborate at all.

For example, poorly structured partnerships between project teams can overwhelm schedules with unproductive meetings, distract the teams from focusing on their core missions and create cloudy lines of accountability that actually result in less work getting done. A poorly conceived collaboration can make things worse than if the partners had simply tried to work by themselves and failed to achieve their own goal. There is significant research that suggests society is often better off if two organizations choose to go their own way rather than work together in a poorly constructed partnership.

Of course, just as a bad marriage should not cause a person to give up on the promise of love, the possibility of a bad partnership is not a good reason for an organization to decline to collaborate. The rewards of a good partnership are simply too great to ignore.

In my many years of working in the world of philanthropy, I’ve helped facilitate numerous collaborations between charities. One thing has become clear to me: Similar to a marriage, perhaps 80 percent of the likelihood of a collaboration’s success can be traced directly to selecting the right partner in the first place. The challenge is to identify what constitutes the “right” partner.

In the case of my marriage, I chose someone incredibly determined, remarkably kind and absolutely gorgeous. Of course, if you’ve met my lovely wife, Cari, you’re laughing out loud right now at the idea that I chose her. It was sheer dumb luck that my “collaborative partner” chose me. Thankfully, charities don’t have to search for a four-leaf clover before building a collaboration. There are three principles an organization can rely on to be more deliberate when selecting a collaborative partner.

First, the partners need to have a shared or complementary vision. Everyone involved must have their own clear vision of what defines success for the collaborative effort, and those individual visions must be in harmony with one another. It’s easiest when that vision is the same. For instance, a public school and a church might both envision a safe place for kids to play in the neighborhood. Collaborating to build a playground is obvious and logical. The public school might use the playground on weekdays and the church only during Sunday school, but essentially they have a shared vision for the kids.

It isn’t always as obvious when organizations have different visions. Collaborations can still work between organizations with differing visions of success as long as they complement one another. For instance, a housing charity’s vision might be to ensure that all working families have safe, affordable housing. An economic-development organization’s vision could be to help local businesses thrive.

Their visions are very different, but it makes perfect sense to work together to develop a multi-family housing unit: The housing charity is all about putting working families in affordable homes, and the economic-development organization might be responding to the lack of workforce housing in the community. Although each organization exists for a very different purpose, their visions complement one another and thus make them natural collaborative partners on this particular project.

Second, the partners should have complementary capabilities. If the vision is to develop a vibrant, intergenerational program, it doesn’t make sense for a children’s charity to attempt to collaborate with another youth-serving organization because they have the same skill set: working with kids. A better partner would be an organization that serves senior citizens because it has skills and experiences that complement those of the children’s charity. In a successful collaboration, each partner brings a capability that is both unique among those sitting at the table and critical to achieving the partnership’s goal.

Third, the partners must have shared values. No matter how much two organizations’ visions are in harmony and how complementary their capabilities, there will inevitably be bumps in the road. The likelihood of two partners successfully addressing a challenge depends on their ability to work together under pressure, and how teams react when times get tough is dictated by their values. Do the organizations place a greater value on stewardship or innovation? Do they prioritize teamwork or empower the individual? Are they dedicated to a culture that is honest, open, ethical and fair; or do they focus on impact?

These are all real value statements from some of America’s largest companies. They are not necessarily mutually exclusive, but they do say a lot about what these organizations consider the “right” or “wrong” way to get something done. If you work with a partner whose values are in conflict with yours, you’ll waste a lot of time trying to resolve organizational conflicts about how you’re supposed to deal with one another. When you collaborate with a partner that shares your values, however, you can focus your energy exclusively on getting the work done.

 

This article, written be Door County Community Foundation President and CEO, Bret Bicoy, originally appeared in the Peninsula Pulse.