YWCA tightens focus in face of deficit

Jean Pudlo
Jean Pudlo

Todd Cohen

GREENSBORO, N.C. — Faced in recent years with an annual deficit that grew to $185,000 in the fiscal year that ended last June 30, YWCA of Greensboro is regrouping.

The Y has ousted its executive director, named an interim director, hired an accountant to bring its books up to date, and decided to drop its aquatics and fitness programs and tighten its focus, says Jean Pudlo, a nonprofit consultant who in December was named interim executive director.

The Y now will focus mainly on two existing programs, including one that mentors teen mothers and supports their kids, and another that provides after-school activities for elementary and middle-school students.

“Those two programs are going to be the key focus as we rebuild our organization and move forward,” Pudlo says.

Founded in 1903, the Y in recent years has branded its programs around the mission of “eliminating racism, empowering women.”

At the same time, however, the Y failed to adapt itself to changes in the marketplace, says Pudlo.

Those changes included growing competition from organizations offering fitness programs, rising competition for charitable support, shifting priorities by funders, and greater attention by key funder United Way of Greater Greensboro to outcomes rather than operations.

“We didn’t see the sum of a lot of gradual changes,” Pudlo says.

With an annual budget totaling $1.2 million this fiscal year, the Y has aimed to keep itself afloat by turning to its reserves and its endowment, and slowing payment of bills, she says.

The Y has nearly depleted its reserves and has borrowed $75,000 from its endowment, which fell in value to $160,500 at the end of 2008 in the face of the deteriorating economy and capital markets from a high of $348,000 in June 2007.

With the ouster of Adrienne Witherspoon as executive director in October after 11 months on the job, Y board members and the board treasurer worked to sort out the organization’s books for the fiscal year that had ended June 30, 2008.

So when Pudlo joined the Y in early December, she says, she found “a lot of organizational systems that weren’t working smoothly.”

The Y’s accounting systems, for example, still were months in arrears because information about the organization’s finances for the current fiscal year simply had not been booked.

The Y in November had hired an accountant who continues to work part-time.

“It was January before we could look at incomes and expenses of a particular program to analyze what was going on,” Pudlo says.

Once numbers were available, the Y conducted a financial and market analysis of its operations and programs, and assessed its organizational strengths and weaknesses.

On Feb. 27, the Y board decided to suspend its aquatics programs and fitness classes, effective March 21, when the current season for those activities ends.

That will result in the reduction of a full-time aquatics coordinator and 10 part-time staffers.

It is the difference they are making in the community that prompted the Y to decide to focus its continuing attention mainly on the mentoring program for teen mothers and the after-school program for elementary-school and middle-school students, Pudlo says.

Ninety-seven percent of the 330 teen mothers in the mentoring program, for example, stay in school, compared to 30 percent of teen mothers nationally who stay in school.

And because of the childbirth classes and health education it offers, 97 percent of mothers in the program gave birth to babies with normal birth weight, an indicator that future development and health will be normal, compared to 87 percent of minority women ages 15 to 19 throughout North Carolina whose babies’ birth weight is normal.

“The work we do saves lives,” Pudlo says.

And the after-school program, which serves 225 kids, reaches “a lot of children who otherwise would have nowhere to go after school or would be home alone,” she says.

“Having that quality care,” she says, “means those parents can work to support their family or be in school or be looking for a job.”

Chaired by Judi Rossabi, owner of Yoga Café, the Y board will devote the next two months to develop a vision and goals for the Y and to overseeing the rebuilding of the organization, including internal systems, marketing and fundraising, Pudlo says.

Eventually, she says, the Y aims to “build on what we do well to either serve more moms and after-school children, to serve them better, or to serve additional populations.”

The Y also is planning its third annual Girls and Women in Sports Dinner, which will be held April 25 at the Alumni Event Center at N.C. A&T State University and feature Caroline Lind, an Olympic gold medalist for rowing, as guest speaker.

And the Y has been awarded a $25,000 grant by the Tannenbaum-Sternberger Foundation.

“The organization is trying to focus in on what we do best for this community and building from there,” Pudlo says. “We’re not out of the woods yet. It’s going to take some work to continue to stabilize the organization so we continue to grow those programs, but we’re on our way.”

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