Goodwill sponsors Boys and Girls Club

By Sara Schilling, Tri-City HeraldDecember 25, 2012 

The Boys and Girls Club of Benton and Franklin Counties is celebrating a big gift from an unusual donor: another local nonprofit.

Goodwill Industries of the Columbia is providing an "administrative sponsorship" in the form of accounting and maintenance help.

Club Executive Director Brian Ace expects the sponsorship to free up thousands of dollars annually for the club to spend directly on kids instead of support services.

He described the partnership as a blessing.

"We're appreciative of their investment in us," Ace told the Herald last week.

Goodwill officials brought the concept to the club earlier this year.

Executive Director Gordon Comfort said his agency -- which offers training and employment services and also employs hundreds at its stores around the region -- was looking to expand its mission.

"We thought, what would happen if we had a partnership with Boys and Girls Club, recognizing that our mission of putting people to work and changing lives through the power of work mostly deals with adults?" he said.

Scott Shinsato, Goodwill's associate executive director, added that his agency has supported the club in the past through fundraisers and other activities.

"We just thought that this (partnership) was really a very good platform to really take advantage of resources we had to support another organization," he said.

The new arrangement is just getting off the ground. Goodwill's accounting department is taking on the club's accounting, and Goodwill staffers also will help the smaller nonprofit plan for facility and vehicle maintenance, pitching in for repairs when it can.

The arrangement is unusual. Club and Goodwill leaders said they haven't heard of other local nonprofits combining forces in similar ways.

But, they said, it's a model that perhaps should be duplicated, especially at a time when some nonprofits are struggling to keep their doors open in the tight economy.

"We think that when nonprofits work together, it works. We shouldn't be in competition with one another. There should be more partnerships. When there are economies of scale we can tap into, we should do so," Comfort told the Herald.

The club has 11 locations in Benton and Franklin counties, serving an average of 500 kids a day.

Its recently has gone through some staff reorganization to free up more money for direct services, said Ace, who became executive director this summer.

That included eliminating the vice president of finance position. The club was going to hire an outside vendor for accounting.

"What an amazing blessing to have that expertise come not as a paid contract but rather as a donated service of a nonprofit with a similar mission," Ace said.

He estimated the services Goodwill is donating would cost the club $40,000 to $80,000 annually.

Goodwill employs more than 400 people -- including many with disabilities -- largely at its retail stores. This year, it's helped about 850 people through its employment services program.

Club and Goodwill officials said they didn't jump into the arrangement hastily; there was hours of conversation.

"We've got the people on both ends that can really make this work," said John Paetel, president of Goodwill's board. "We can count this a success every single month. And we can serve a whole bunch of people."

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