If you’ve heard anything that THC has had to say over the past couple years, we hope that you’ve listened when we’ve talked about the massively shady operations over at Humboldt Area Foundation. Led by Patrick Cleary, Humboldt Area Foundation has failed to stick to its mission to support local area non-profits and the community, and have instead decided to devote their time (and your money!) to promoting a very specific political agenda.
But don’t just take it from us – take it from an e-mail written by Liz Smith, the Executive Director at the Boys & Girls Club. Ms. Smith makes a ton of excellent points about HAF’s failures to support perhaps the largest youth organization in Humboldt. Among those points are that supporters of the Boys & Girls Club have serious reservations about HAF’s financial dealings and HAF’s failure to support inclusion and equity despite loudly trumpeting “inclusion” as one of their key focuses.
Let THC remind you that there are a ton of worthwhile charities in Humboldt County, including the Boys & Girls Club of the Redwoods, that are in need of your support. What’s more is that donating directly to those organizations, rather than HAF, means that money is being used to make a more immediate impact rather than allowing HAF to fund their political activities by taking off the top. In fact, here’s a post that THC made on that subject not long ago: Great ways to show thanks: Humboldt organizations worth donating to that aren’t HAF
Ms. Smith’s email was originally published over at John Chiv Wordsworth – here’s a link to the post, which we’ve also reproduced in full below. We apologize for the length to those of you that are as hungover today as all of us at THC – but we assure you, this is worth the read:
From: Elizabeth Smith [firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Friday, December 23, 2016 06:14 AM Pacific Standard Time
To: Patrick Cleary
Subject: Disappointed in HAF’s promotion of supporting equity and inclusion and not making significant investment in the Boys & Girls Club of the Redwoods
I am writing to express my extreme disappointment in Humboldt Area Foundation’s promotion of equity and inclusion and the lack of a significant investment in the Boys & Girls Club of the Redwoods.
As I know you are aware, there are an inordinate number of non-profits in Humboldt County. I have heard numbers ranging from 1,000-2,000. All of these non-profits are varying in size, scope and perhaps more importantly for this discussion, how and from where they receive their monetary resources.
The Boys & Girls Club of the Redwoods fundraises for EVERY dollar needed to serve now over 4,000 children and youth in Humboldt and soon to be Del Norte and Siskyou Counties. I realize that your tenure as Executive Director of Humboldt Area Foundation is under five years, but that your time in Humboldt County spans over 20 and that you are aware of the financial, public relations, Board engagement and staff recruitment/retention challenges our Club has dealt with since 2008. To put it into better perspective, I would like to highlight just some of the significant strides we’ve made since 2008.
- In December of 2008, six-year Chief Professional Officer, Jeff Jacobs, left abruptly for a position in Wichita, Kansas. At the time, I was serving as the Associate Chief Professional Offficer/Director of Operations for our Club and had been offered a position in Oakland as CEO, Calvester Stanley’s #2. When I learned of Jeff’s untimely departure, with a heavy heart, I opted to remain at this Club, knowing that we would not survive without a staff person who was familiar with and respected by the staff, Board and community.
- In December of 2008, it was discovered that we were $459,000 in debt and we had over 96 businesses to whom we owed monies.
- We came to you and the McLean Foundation asking for financial support. Both of you said “no,” more specifically that you “did not want to give to a sinking ship”, however thanks to the leadership of Leigh Pierre Oetker, you collectively agreed to give us a Technical Assistance Program grant, for us to hire two consultants, Byrd Lochtie and Gabrielle Parkinson, to work with myself and our Board on a strategic action plan, addressing:fundraising, fiscal management, programmatic/site prioritization, debt relief and the feasibility of remaining open. I will also point out that both HAF and McLean advised bankruptcy.
- Our Board, like dynamite, was small and mighty. With the incredible passion and tenacity of late Board Members, Lance Madsen and Michael Rigdon, and the leadership of other veteran Board Members, Mari Wilson, Mark Wetzel and Keith Crossley, our Board REFUSED to not engage in every opportunity available to serve our members and staff.
- New Board Members were brought on, including Social Work Professor, Dr. Christian Itin, who was instrumental in facilitating meetings with staff to let them know our financial predicament and thoughtfully address which sites were not sustainable and what the least damaging closing transitions would look like to close a unit in Klamath and Crescent City and Night Basketball extension programs three iterations ago of Zoe Barnum and Fortuna High School. Of the eight full-time, exempt staff we had, only one, myself remained full-time and ONLY because this was a mandate by Boys & Girls Clubs of America. Of those staff, only Monica Rose, then a Clubhouse Director and now my #2, have remained. Due to safety issues, our Unit with the Wiyot Tribe would later close in 2010.
- Our Board met weekly for 2 1/2 years. In going from the #2 position to now the #1 position, I took a $19,000 pay cut and lost all benefits that were not mandated by law or Boys & Girls Clubs of America charter mandate.
- Much to our surprise and I would argue, divine intervention, we had the great fortune of attracting Dale Warmuth. Little did we know that we would lose Lance Madsen and Michael Rigdon and that Dale would emerge as the stalwart champion respected, beloved and trusted by the community for his transparency, hard work, fun nature and business acumen.
- Fast forwarding to now, we have met and exceeded every goal that we set out to with Byrd and Gabrielle in 2009 and taken on new, lofty goals after continued attention to strategic visioning, the awareness and addressing of community trends and deciding two things: we would make every effort to enliven our mission in such a way that we are aware of other services in our area that may be duplicitive in nature and let the better organization “win” and that we would address where there were gaps in services for children/youth and determine if it was within our expertise to address these.
- We now have a Board of 15 committed, intelligent, hard-working, passionate members who serve with the utmost integrity and grace.
- We have a top notch leadership team, who are two-tiered. Our Executive staff of four who address human resources, adherence to our strategic plan, facilities management, grants management, donor cultivation and stewardship, marketing and public relations, program development and implementation, volunteer, Board and staff training and development. I can assure you that not one second of our time is wasted. Our second tier of leadership consists of our Unit Directors, who not only manage the budgets, programs, safety and mentoring of their respective Units, but unlike many other Boys & Girls Clubs, ALL work directly with our members. We lowered our standards in 2009 for our Unit Directors, so that we could justify paying them an hourly rate NOW comparable with what a car detailer makes at Harper Motors.
- We have paid off all of our debts and thanks to Dale’s leadership, have renegotiated our line of credit with Redwood Capital Bank (one that was $250,000 and opened by my predecessor using a building as collateral that was not owned by the Club). That $250,000 line of credit is now a 0% loan and we have less than $120,000 left to pay.
- Our budget for 2017 comes in just over $1,000,000.
Patrick, I appreciate that when you came on as ED just under five years ago, that you expressed to my Board that you wanted to mentor me. I trust that was because you had heard that I was honest, compassionate, committed, intelligent and community minded. I also trust that to want to mentor me, that you must have seen weaknesses and at the time, likely in self-confidence and business acumen.
Thanks to the encouragement of mentors like you, I would argue that my greatest weakness at this point in my now eight year tenure as Executive Director, is taking on too much. On a personal level, you know that not only have I agreed to remain in Humboldt County, but also help to take care of a 89 year old father and a brother with schizophrenia.
This has been a wonderful year professionally and conversely, a harrowing year for me personally as you know.
Patrick, not only are we the greatest, most comprehensive youth development program for youth. I am not aware of another non-profit who has a more committed Board of Directors and staff and who does a better job of stewarding the dollar.
During my tenure as ED, here are just a few highlights of my individual recognitions:
October 2012: Chosen as one of five Boys & Girls Club CEO’s to participate in the Global Institute for Leadership Development Program.
September 2013: Asked to serve as a Learning Team Leader for Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s Pacific Leadership Conference. I received the highest score when evaluated by the Learning Teams, out of 25 Leads. I have been asked every year since to serve.
September 2015: Chosen as one of 18 CEO’s in the Pacific Region to participate in a training to be a CEO Coach.
March 2016: Named one of top 50 Boys & Girls Club CEO’s in the country (this is out of over 1,000)
April 2016: Invited to apply for the inaugural Boys & Girls Clubs of America and Harvard Executive Leadership Program.
May 2016: Was one of 50 chosen to participate in the Harvard Program (10 military club personnel, 20 Boys & Girls Clubs of America staff, 20 CEO’s). I will note that our Club had the smallest budget size represented and when divided into seven cohorts, I was chosen to be spokesperson for our group and ours was the ONLY group that the 12 most Boys & Girls Clubs of America senior leadership had no questions of.
My local community involvement extends far beyond my CEO role.
- I volunteer to do cognitive behavioral therapy at Humboldt Family Service Center.
- I am an Elder at FIrst Presbyterian Church of Eureka.
- I serve on the Eureka Police Chief’s Advisory Board.
- I serve on the Rotary Club of Arcata Board.
- I serve on the League of Women Voters of Humboldt County Board.
- I serve on the College of the Redwoods’ President’s Advisory Council for Equity and Inclusion.
- I am a member of Humboldt State University’s Sociology and Criminology Advisory Committee.
- I am a member of the Human Rights Commission.
- I also preach monthly at various Presbyterian Churches and sing in several community choirs.
I cannot escape the irony that HAF is one of numerous organizations locally who have invested thousands of dollars to discuss equity and inclusion. I am the only CEO of color of any local non-profit and because of stretching the donor dollar, I am making less money than the staff who are charged with making your grant decisions and do not believe that any of them combined are as involved, respected and recognizable in the community as I am.
As our Club continues to grow in breadth and reach, I am being asked difficult questions with regards to what support we receive from Humboldt Area Foundation and what I know about how the Foundation is using money.
Patrick, I’m exhausted as are my most veteran Board Members, because we are stretched too thin in our efforts. I am asking for an investment of $250,000. These monies will give us the infrastructural footing needed to a) begin working with I2 Consultant, Kirk Dominick, in structuring our expansion campaign b) allow us to hire a program manager who can dedicate the time necessary to move this building renovation forward c) allow me to augment staff salaries to take on the duties necessary to take duties off of my plate c) pay for my leadership staff to receive outside coaching. d) move our administrative offices to a different location and e) pay for me to participate in the Ingomar Club and Baywood Golf & Country Club for the duration of the campaign, as a means to interface with donors with whom I do not currently have access.
I have always been committed to our organization and in particular, working in concert with other non-profits and funders like yourself to not compete for the same, finite, donor dollars. I can no longer afford to be this diplomatic. I would love to work with you to build the Boys & Girls Club into the organization it needs to be to best address the issues our youth are facing, however will work every political angle I can to best serve our youth, even if it is counter to your Foundation’s efforts.
I implore you to put your money where your mouth is and know that an investment in the Boys & Girls Club of the Redwoods is a true, tangible investment in equity and inclusion at all levels of our organization and community at large.
Being a businessman and one who must be ever aware of the political climate, I trust that you will appreciate my need to become a more assertive Director and I also trust that you understand that this is written with continued love and respect for you. I am the incoming NAACP President for our local area. White liberals who are pissed off at the outcome of the presidential election are coming out to support me in droves and come with great financial means. The most supportive donors our Boys & Girls Club has are conservative, who are the ones asking specifically how much you are investing in us. I hope that I can tell them that our campaign will be off to a robust start once we have your Foundation’s investment.
I look forward to hearing from you.