Newsmakers July 2011

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Nonprofits

Roxanne Spillett, who has led the Atlanta-based Boys & Girls Clubs of America since 1996, announced she will step down as president next year, ending a tenure that has seen a massive growth in federal funds for the group, followed by questions from Congress about how it was spending that money.

Largely due to Spillett’s influential government relations team led by Beltway veteran and youth advocate Robbie Callaway, BGCA got its own budget line item in 1997. Funding under that line item rose from $20 million in the early years to a peak of $85 million in 2005.

How the club spent that federal money came under scrutiny in 2010, when four Republican senators held up the reauthorization of BGCA’s line item. Spillett’s $1 million in total compensation for that year was among the concerns of Sens. Tom Coburn (Okla.), Chuck Grassley (Iowa), Jon Kyl (Ariz.) and John Cornyn (Texas).

The senators requested thousands of pages of documents from BGCA, held meetings with BGCA officials and openly criticized the organization. Though a portion of the documents was released to the public, information regarding the financial aspects of its operation was not.

After a flurry of initial publicity, the senators went silent and never revealed any resolution to their investigation.

James Clark, who for the past eight years has served as president and CEO of the Milwaukee Boys & Girls Clubs, will succeed Spillett on Jan. 2. Milwaukee’s Boys & Girls Clubs, one of the organization’s largest, under Clark’s leadership has expanded from 23 to 40 locations. He has also overseen continuing growth in its revenues.

Spillett will work with Clark for three months and then remain with BGCA as a part-time consultant on special projects.

Another local club leader joining the Atlanta office is Joe Ethier, former chief professional officer for the Hall County Boys & Girls Clubs in Gainesville, Ga. Ethier, who has worked with the clubs for 20 years, will be a regional service director, based in Atlanta and serving Mississippi. Contact: (404) 487-5700, www.bgca.org.

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The domestic youth programs of the Washington, D.C.-based Academy for Educational Development (AED) were put in a precarious state last year when the academy was notified that the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) was suspending its federal funding pending an ongoing investigation by the USAID inspector general.

Now, it looks as if most or all of the programs will remain intact, if a bid to acquire AED’s assets by Family Health International is completed this summer.

The problem between USAID and AED was based on the organization’s projects in Pakistan and Afghanistan. But the freeze-out by USAID also prevented AED from pursuing funding from other federal agencies, and AED announced in March that it would sell off its assets, preferably to a single buyer.

There was much concern that a single buyer was likely to be interested in AED’s global portfolio and that the U.S. youth programs might fall by the wayside.

But AED officials said FHI, a North Carolina-based group that specializes in health care services and operates almost entirely in other countries, has expressed interest in the domestic work.

“They’re very excited” about the U.S. programs, said Bonnie Politz, vice president and senior technical expert for the AED Social Change program. Politz said she has “100 percent certainty” that AED’s U.S. programs, although “maybe not each and every one,” will continue if the acquisition is completed.

The U.S. youth program has three divisions: the Center for School and Community Services, the Center for Youth Development and Engagement, and the National Institute for Work and Learning.

AED brought in $433.9 million in revenue during fiscal 2009, according to its tax returns. Of that, $394.1 million was government funding. FHI had $328 million in revenue during 2009 and $370 million in 2008, according to tax returns. Contact: (202) 884-8000, www.aed.org.

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Friends of the Children, a Philadelphia-based organization that connects paid mentors with disadvantaged children, is on the brink of gaining a new site in Alaska and losing a current one in Ohio.

The organization has been in discussions for about a year with State Sen. Joe Paskvan (D) to establish an FOTC program in Fairbanks, Alaska, said Deputy Director Dwayne Wharton. A $2 million, three-year grant was recently included in the state’s budget to start the project. The next step, Wharton said, is for FOTC’s national office to help set up local control of the program and raise additional funds for it.

FOTC, which pays adults to mentor children as a full-time job, was founded in 1993 in Portland, Ore., by Duncan Campbell, a former juvenile detention worker who went on to make millions of dollars in the timber industry. The organization has been lead since 2007 by Judith Stavisky.

Campbell’s model was quickly lauded by some in the research community.

“I don’t casually toss words around like ‘brilliant’ and ‘unique,’ but what Campbell did is brilliant and unique,” Public/Private Ventures President Gary Walker said in 1998. “What he created in Portland could change the way this country tries to help its children.”

By 2001, FOTC had grown to programs in nine locations: four in Oregon (Portland, Klamath Falls, Salem and Eugene), and one each in Cincinnati, New York, San Francisco, Seattle and Wilmington, Del.

Boston has since established an FOTC site, but other programs have struggled into extinction. In Oregon, only the Portland Klamath Falls site remains. Wilmington wound down its program in the mid-2000s.

San Francisco only recently closed, Wharton said. “They suffered from a very down economy, especially being an expensive model in an expensive city.”

Now, said Wharton, it appears that the Cincinnati program will end as well, because state funding for the program has dwindled over the years.

The national office is financially “solid,” Wharton said. Tax returns indicate that the Philadelphia office’s revenue (much of which is spent on local programs) has increased from $609,000 in fiscal 2007 to $1.56 million in 2009. Its saved assets are at $1.4 million, up from $586,000 in 2007. Contact: (215) 575-1105, www.friendsofthechildren.org.

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The Alliance for Children and Families, a major trade group, has received a four-year, $5,375,000 grant to help 19 of its 350 members weave long-term strategies into daily operations as much as possible.

“If this bears out what we expect, it has game-changing potential” for family services, said Alliance CEO Peter Goldberg.

The Alliance, which is headquartered in Milwaukee, is developing two requests for proposals for the majority of the grant. Nine larger Alliance members will receive funds to help hire a chief strategy officer. Ten smaller organizations, which would not be able to sustain such an executive-level position beyond the life of the four-year grant, will receive “lighter touch interventions,” such as strategy coaches or data systems development.

The goal for the strategy officers is to “begin charting their future direction” and establish the mentality of a “365-day effort to tie in strategy,” Goldberg said.

They can also help develop inter-organizational efforts in service areas and “ascertain potential for mergers and acquisitions,” Goldberg said. Many Alliance members are large service agencies with sound revenue streams, and the state budget shortfalls have endangered the financially weaker providers in their areas.

Hired to lead the “Strategy Counts!” initiative for the Alliance is Michael Mortell, who previously worked for the Greater Milwaukee Committee as project manager, overseeing a $5.1 million Workforce Innovation in Regional Economic Development grant (WIRED) from the Labor Department.

The holding company for the Alliance – Families International, which also oversees three other nonprofit groups – will hire its own chief strategy officer as part of the initiative.

Kresge, which is funding the Alliance strategy program, has historically funded capital projects, such as construction and expansion of facilities, for nonprofits. But in recent years, the foundation has responded to the recession and state budget crises by supporting capacity-building for direct service projects.

“This grant is a reflection, I think, of Kresge finding some new ways to fund capacity,” Goldberg said. Contact: (414) 359-1040, www.alliance1.org.

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Harris Miller resigned as CEO of the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities, a Washington, D.C.-based organization that represents many of the for-profit colleges in the United States. Miller was a key figure in the debate over how to regulate for-profit and career colleges, which recently resulted in rules issued by the Education Department.

Brian Moran, APSCU’s executive vice president of government affairs and general counsel, will serve as interim president of the association. Contact: (202) 336-6700, www.career.org.

Foundations

Gara LaMarche, president of Atlantic Philanthropies, announced last month that he will be stepping down from the position as of Sept. 1. He has led the global grant maker, with headquarters in New York, since 2007, when he succeeded John Healy.

LaMarche was vice president and director of U.S. Programs for the Open Society Institute from 1996 to 2007. He plans to take a job as a senior fellow at New York University’s Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, where he already serves as an adjunct professor of public administration.

Whoever is tapped to replace LaMarche could be the last leader of the foundation, which was started in 1982 by billionaire Chuck Feeney. Feeney intends for the foundation’s remaining $4 billion to be spent entirely by 2017. Contact: (212) 916-7300, www.atlanticphilanthropies.org.

Government

George Sheldon, the former secretary of Florida’s Department of Children and Families, has been tapped to lead the Administration for Children and Families for President Barack Obama.

Florida child welfare advocates have praised Sheldon for running an exceptionally transparent agency. Most notably, Sheldon set up a special website with information on the case of 7-year-old Gabriel Myers, a foster youth who had been prescribed powerful psychotropic medications and hanged himself in 2009.

The agency also has released extensive files about the placement and monitoring of brother and sister Nubia and Victor Barahona. Their adoptive parents have been charged with killing Nubia and seriously injuring Victor. (“Foster Care Agency, DCF Make Changes after Girl’s Death,” page 6.)

Under Sheldon, “successes were discussed as plainly as challenges and even the failures,” said Roy Miller, of the Tallahassee-based Children’s Campaign. “That led to being able to make improvements, because we weren’t sweeping things under the carpet.”

Sheldon emerged in 2010 as a strong supporter of child welfare waivers, offered by the Administration for Children and Families to a number of states to promote innovation by making the federal allotment of foster care funds more flexible. Florida is the only statewide waiver project.

“Having Sheldon there should boost the prospects” for an expansion of the waiver program, said Richard Wexler, executive director of the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform.

Sheldon, a Democrat, was appointed to lead DCF in 2008 by Republican Gov. Charlie Crist. From 1999 to 2003, Sheldon served as a deputy to Attorney General Bob Butterworth, the same man he would later succeed at DCF. He was elected to the Florida House of Representatives in 1974 and served there until 1982. Contact: (202) 401-9216, www.acf.hhs.gov.

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Denise O’Donnell has been sworn in as director of the Bureau of Justice Assistance. She was most recently the top criminal justice administrator for New York state under Gov. David Paterson (D), and before that served as U.S. Attorney for the Western District of New York.

One of O’Donnell’s first tasks might be to deal with the 10 percent cut in Byrne Justice Assistance Grants to any state not in compliance with the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act by July 27. Only seven states are in substantial compliance with the act right now. The remaining states have voiced a number of concerns with its sex offender registry requirements, one concern being the inclusion of juvenile offenders on registries.

Meanwhile, the administration has yet to nominate anyone for one of the other leadership positions within the Office of Justice Programs: administrator of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. The conventional wisdom for months has been that Massachusetts juvenile justice leader Jane Tewksbury is the leading candidate. Contact: (202) 307-0703, www.ojp.gov.

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Robert Velasco II, the chief operating officer of the Corporation for National and Community Service, has been designated interim chief executive officer of the agency. He replaces Patrick Corvington, who left in late May.

Velasco joined CNCS in September 2010 from the Department of Health and Human Services, where he had served as director of management operations in the Office of Medicare Hearings and Appeals. He has spent more than 16 years in various executive branch positions.

For the past several months, Velasco has also served as CNCS’ chief of program operations. Contact: (202) 606-5000, www.cns.gov.

Passages 

David Richart, 63, a pioneer of the modern strategy for child advocacy. Richart founded  Kentucky Youth Advocates in 1975 and co-authored “Fairness Is a Kid’s Game” with Stephen Bing in 1989 – a book that is still considered a seminal resource in child advocacy.

“David was decades ahead in thinking about advocacy  strategies, and was the first to use a combination of legislation, litigation, media and advocacy to … press for reforms to help children,” said Mark Soler, executive director of the Center for Children’s Law and Policy.

“David ran one of the very best advocacy efforts in the country, and really was one of the first to come up with the idea [of youth advocacy],” said Bill Treanor, a veteran youth work leader and co-founder of Youth Today. “He never got the kind of national accolades he deserved.”