In an exclusive interview with The Sacramento Bee, Goodwill Industries CEO Joseph Mendez said he will announce Tuesday that the agency has assumed the expense of capital improvements and numerous back-office functions for Sacramento’s Wind Youth Services.
That way, Mendez said, Wind will be able to focus its dollars on moving homeless youths into stable housing, work and self-reliance.
In the last two years, Goodwill Industries of the Sacramento Valley and Northern Nevada has quietly sealed strategic partnerships that have financially stabilized four other regional nonprofits struggling with the costs of accounting, human resources, payroll management, fund development, grant writing, facilities maintenance, safety and asset protection. Typically, nonprofits have trouble raising funds from foundations or major donors to pay for such services.
“Goodwill, because of the success of its ... thrift stores, has been put in the position where we can expand our mission delivery, and so we stopped thinking just about an organizational strategy and started thinking about a community strategy,” Mendez told me. “While our focus remains vocational access to people with disadvantages and disabilities, we also recognize that before you can get a job, you need a house. You need a full belly. Your kids need to be safe.”
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In addition to Wind, Goodwill has formed strategic partnerships with Redding’s People of Progress, Community Link Capital Region and Next Move. Late last year, Mendez also helped to facilitate the merger of Francis House Center and Next Move to ensure that Francis House would be able to continue to operate.
Established in 1970, Sacramento’s Francis House helps clients find and apply for jobs, purchase state identification cards, find family shelter, get eyeglasses and regional transit IDs, among other things. Next Move, also based in Sacramento, assists families with children with finding shelter and moving toward self-reliance. People of Progress also feeds, shelters and clothes homeless residents in the Redding area.
“We’re working with other nonprofits that have overlapping mission requirements to get people out of poverty – food, housing, just the basic necessities,” Mendez told me. “We’re a little myopic from the standpoint that what we believe is you cannot gain self-sufficiency without a job.”
About 93 percent of Goodwill’s $80 million budget goes toward operating its 26 stores and training disadvantaged and disabled people to work, Mendez said, but last year, the organization’s board changed the Goodwill mission statement to allow Mendez leeway to assist other nonprofits that also served clients trying to achieve self-sufficiency.
According to Goodwill’s chief financial officer, Connie Schulze, the agency has provided more than $900,000 in cash to cover operating expenses and more than $1.3 million for capital expenditures. Those capital improvements include Next Move’s new family shelter, roof repairs at Francis House, a new 211 call center for Community Link with increased staffing, a new roof and store remodel for People of Progress, and improvements to the property that is now being used as a drop-in center for Wind Youth Services.
Going forward, Schulze estimated, the organization will provide operational support valued at roughly $850,000 for its nonprofit partners. Often, Mendez said, the leaders of these nonprofits were juggling fundraising and grant-writing duties while also attempting to provide services.
The directors of each agency saw that a strategic partnership would allow them and their staff to focus solely on serving clients. Each agency had been experiencing regular challenges with meeting operational expenses, Mendez said, and they had made him aware of their challenges. Wind Youth Services, for instance, had asked the community for stopgap funding to keep its shelter for 12- to 18-year-olds open. As reported in this column on March 24, Goodwill and Sacramento County had provided $60,000 in funding and had sought matching funds.
Goodwill’s new chief development officer, Karen McClaflin, jumped into action on that effort, and by April 8, the campaign had yielded slightly more than $135,000. It really showed the power of a potential partnership. Wind’s board approved the arrangement earlier this month.