The following is a conversation between Jim Clark, President & CEO of Boys & Girls Clubs of America, and Denver Frederick, the Host of The Business of Giving.
Denver: Jim Clark has led the Boys & Girls Clubs of America since 2012. He oversees a vast network of over 5,000 clubs that enrich the lives of 350,000 young people across the U.S. on a typical day. His tenure has been marked by significant strides in organizational restructuring and the launch of a forward-thinking strategy emphasizing three core areas: academic success, character and citizenship, and healthy lifestyles.
His commitment to empowering the next generation is both inspiring and impactful, making him a true luminary in the field of youth development, and he is with us now.
Welcome to The Business of Giving, Jim.
Jim: Well, thanks for having me, Denver. It’s great to be with you, and I’m looking forward to our conversation.
“And when we think about our role in America, it is the foundation of youth development. It’s intentional programs, initiatives and different services to support young people’s growth and development and learning. Learning takes place in all parts of the day, not just school. And our goal is to have them grow up and become productive, caring citizens in our society.”
Denver: Likewise. Tell us a little bit about the Boys & Girls Clubs of America and how it all got started.
Jim: Well, Boys & Girls Clubs of America has been in existence for 163 years, dating back to its origin in 1860. And it began in Hartford, Connecticut. Interestingly enough, the building is still there. It’s not a Boys & Girls Club anymore, but the building still stands.
And much of the reason, or the tenets of the first Boys & Girls Club and thereafter remain the same today. It was established by four women to get kids off the street, and by getting them off the street, take advantage of the time for a positive alternative to the trouble that they were getting into.
Back in those days, it was mostly coming from factories, or kids coming from work environments. So it was an opportunity to, again, get kids off the street, and then give them something to eat, to let them blow off some steam, have some fun, and then also learn and grow and develop, and build some essential skills as we call it today.
And these four women, in terms of how we operate today… very similar. We use caring professional adults in the lives of young people, and character development was the cornerstone then, and it’s the cornerstone now in terms of what we do.
So fast forward a little bit… and to answer the second part of your question, since the beginning, we’ve really evolved into the nation’s leading youth- serving organization, as you stated, serving millions of kids and teens every year. We focus on those three core areas: academic success, good character and citizenship, and healthy lifestyle.
And when we think about our role in America, it is the foundation of youth development. It’s intentional programs, initiatives and different services to support young people’s growth and development and learning. Learning takes place in all parts of the day, not just school. And our goal is to have them grow up and become productive, caring citizens in our society.
So that’s a little bit about what Boys & Girls Clubs do and what we’re about. I would just add our model is then consistent over the course of time as well. Facility-based, school-aged youth, out-of-school time space, professional adults, paid professional adults, augmented with volunteers. We’re a preventative model in basic ways.
However, as you can imagine, just by the nature of what we do, we do intervention as well. So that’s a little bit about our model, a little bit about what we do today, and kind of our beginning.
Denver: That’s a pretty good overview, I must say. You’ve worked on this. It was great.
Jim: I’ve used it before.
Denver: What’s the relationship between the Boys & Girls Clubs of America and those 5,000 local clubs?
Jim: Well, we’re a federated model, and a federated model, as many listening to this will know, is a cross between an association and a franchise. Our affiliates don’t like to be considered franchises, and I can understand why. However, we do have membership requirements, in other words, what it means or what it takes to be a Boys & Girls Club.
So the relationship is through this affiliated or federated model. So there are 1,020 separate individual 501(c)(3)s that operate in local communities across the country and also around the globe on U.S. military bases, wherever families of service men and women are living.
So they are governed independently, if you will. They have responsibilities for fundraising and to support their ongoing program and operations. And then Boys & Girls Clubs of America is the chartering organization. Again, we are the umbrella that keeps these membership requirements and grants a charter or takes a charter away.
And it’s simple… our goals are perfectly aligned with every local market and every local club to serve more youth and have a deeper level of impact on their lives. And we work in parallel and integrated to make that happen. So we have a very strong relationship with our affiliates.
And I think part of it is back to the first question in terms of how we were developed. Today, new nonprofits start in any place, anywhere, and then they grow and create affiliates or other units as they move forward. We were formed by 53 separate clubs in 1906… the national organization was created at the time, Boys Club, but Boys & Girls Clubs of America.
So we have this relationship of, beginning with the local operations, and then forming the national. And that symbiotic relationship remains today. And I think it gives us the strength in terms of strategy, direction, and operations.
Denver: Yeah, that’s really interesting. It is amazing how much of the culture of an organization is baked in at its founding, and just the fact that the locals led the national really speaks so well to in terms of the way you operate and why you’re so effective at that local level.
You know, you…
Jim: Well, I think that’s maintained today. I should have Illustrated that a little bit differently, too. We work for the local Boys & Girls Club. And I think that’s our mantra… or it is our mantra. And I think that’s also with our national team, what keeps this aligned and keeps the relationship the way it should be.
Denver: Well said. 350,000 a day, 7 million over a year, tell us a little bit about who these young people are. You’ve answered that in a quantitative basis, but in a more of a qualitative basis, give us an idea of who these young people are who come to the Boys & Girls Club.
Jim: Sure. First of all, again, kids and teens that come to Boys & Girls Clubs are school-aged. So to give you the demographic of the population, they’re of school age, so basically, kindergarten through high school. Of course, we have some kids that are a little bit older when they’re still in high school. If you look at what the ethnicity is of the youth constituents,, it’s fairly blended.
About 30% are Caucasian, 25% Black or African American, 23% Hispanic, and then the rest is a blend of many other ethnicities. We are roughly 55% male, 45% female, so almost a direct split there. And if you think about our origin, we were Boys Club until the early ’90s.
Denver: Right. I remember.
Jim: Yet at the same time even then, girls were allowed in. We just got around to changing our name to represent that after the fact. So you have that split as well. And then if you look at the teens versus elementary and middle school-aged young people, it’s about a third are teenagers, which would be, of course, 13 and up.
And then the younger, under five-year-olds, like I said, kindergarten, it’s only about 4%. So the majority of the youth we serve are in that six-year-old through middle school ages.
“So at Boys & Girls Clubs of America and with all of our affiliates, our goal is to have every single one of our 5,200 clubhouses certified and prepared to deal with levels of trauma. So ‘trauma-informed practice’ is what we call it. And we’re doing that through training.”
Denver: The organization’s had to evolve many, many times since 1860 or 1906, whatever year you pick, in order to be able to maintain its relevance. And I want to pick up on a couple of those things in today’s age, Jim. Let’s start with mental health.
There’s an increasing focus on mental health, especially with the young people. And I wonder how the Boys & Girls Clubs have incorporated that into its programs.
Jim: Sure. Well, no question, Denver, that mental health is a challenge today for young people, really people of all ages. This isn’t new. And I think we quickly point to the pandemic as the pain point with mental health. But the reality is this was going on and the challenges with mental health and trauma long before the pandemic.
I think the pandemic exacerbated the situation and has made it worse. But the reality is, it’s been going on a long time. So with that, the statistics when we think about young people and the mental health challenge that they are encompassing, it’s dramatic.
Over 400, if you look at a high school of 1,000 kids, for example, over 400 are having some kind of feeling of hopelessness or sadness; 200 have contemplated or ideated suicide, and 100 have either tried it or done it. So this is a real crisis and a real challenge right now.
So at Boys & Girls Clubs of America and with all of our affiliates, our goal is to have every single one of our 5,200 clubhouses certified and prepared to deal with levels of trauma. So “trauma-informed practice” is what we call it. And we’re doing that through training.
We’re doing that through creating exemplars and creating different opportunities for staff to be trained and developed in how to recognize, build awareness, and then deal with some of the early stages. Now, of course, there’s always a point where our staff won’t be able to deal with different levels, higher levels of cases.
And then it’s about creating partnerships and resources and communities to point families and kids down the road. So we, just this summer, announced a major partnership with Blue Cross/ Blue Shield, all focused on young people’s mental health. And part of the goal there is to train all 49,000 of our staff, youth development professionals across the country.
And in the end, we’ll be the world’s largest trauma-informed practice organization in the country. So we’re doing a lot when it comes to the mental health of young people and getting them the resources and support that they need to go on and be successful. So many different fronts here, but those are the key tenets of it.
Denver: Yeah. Well done. And building their resilience, I guess that’s a key piece of it as well.
Jim: Absolutely. This is about self-esteem. It’s about resiliency. It’s about just being able to function. And also recognize when you’re having a stressful day or a stressful situation, understanding that, and then being able to change course before you spiral into a deeper level of mental depression or illness.
So I think there’s a lot of different pieces that we work on to help kids understand even when they’re experiencing a level of trauma or stress.
“…if you look at our mission, our mission is serving all young people, especially those who need us most. So if you look at the fence line of what our mission has been about for 163 years, it’s been about inclusion, and that means everyone. So that is really where we start and where we finish.”
Denver: Let me ask you about inclusion and particularly the efforts to support LGBTQ youth and other marginalized groups. What are you doing in that arena?
Jim: Sure. Well, Denver, again, when we think about all youth in this country, perhaps starting there, all young people should have a place where they can feel safe and where they belong.
And at Boys & Girls Clubs across the country, we provide, and through Boys & Girls Clubs of America, provide the resources that enable clubs to provide this safe, inclusive environment where all youth and frankly staff, too, and board members, volunteers, are able to express themselves and be heard.
So if you look at our mission, our mission is serving all young people, especially those who need us most. So if you look at the fence line of what our mission has been about for 163 years, it’s been about inclusion, and that means everyone. So that is really where we start and where we finish.
Denver: Another major concern is social justice and activism. What’s happening there?
Jim: It’s interesting too how things have emerged over the course of recent history. When we survey our young people, one of the top areas of interest and concern, if you will, is all around social issues and dealing with social issues. So it is on young people’s minds, especially teenagers.
And so we do a lot to help young people, again, especially teenagers, find their voice, express their feelings and their opinions. And we provide conduits to make that happen. For example, each summer we have what we call a Summit for America’s Youth in Washington, D.C.
And this past summer, we had 400 teenagers from around the country come to Washington, D.C. to meet with their elected officials and talk about what on their minds… what are the most important issues that young people are facing. And it’s amazing to see these elected officials carefully listen to exactly what teenagers are saying.
So that’s one channel we use. We have what we call Keystone Clubs in clubs across the country that focus on teenagers. And there’s a younger group called our Torch Club that really focuses on character development, youth voice, finding your voice, expressing it; how to be an active, proactive ingredient in your community, or your neighborhood. Includes service projects giving back as well.
So all of these things are part of really what we consider youth voice and helping teenagers and young people find that voice. And there’s no better example than our Youth of the Year. And that’s another program and Initiative we have that is run across the country. All clubs do it.
It’s a roll up and we get to, finally, the National Youth of the Year. And it’s a young lady from McAllen, Texas, this year. And just a fabulous young person, as you can imagine, but truly inspired to advocate for the essential resources and policies that she believes are important.
She comes from an immigrant family, but has really taken on the role of her voice in community, but also really in her school. She’s become a leader in her class, and she’s been a leader in the community. And of course, now she’s our ambassador for all young people in America. So I think those are some of the programs, but also a quick example of how young people rise and get recognized for what they’re doing.
“So workforce readiness and life readiness is a critical component and a key component of our strategy moving forward. It’s about starting at the younger ages actually, and in elementary ages around essential skills. We call them soft skills, if you will– problem solving, innovation, creative and customer service, all of these things that are really important to develop at a young age.”
Denver: And another reason the organization has stayed so relevant for 163 years. Another major initiative of yours, Jim, is helping young people meet the workforce challenges of tomorrow. Tell us about that initiative.
Jim: Absolutely. I think when you look at what’s happening, Denver, to young people and teens across America, and older teens too, as this gets to this opportunity youth, which is up to maybe 24 years old, there’s a mismatch in terms of the skills that young people have and the jobs that are available.
So workforce readiness and life readiness is a critical component and a key component of our strategy moving forward. It’s about starting at the younger ages actually, and in elementary ages around essential skills. We call them soft skills, if you will– problem solving, innovation, creativity, customer service, all of these things that are really important to develop at a young age.
In fact, that’s what employers are really looking for. They can train you on many of the skills, but young people don’t always have these essential skills that are so needed. But we have a complete suite of life and workforce readiness programs and initiatives to support our staffs across the country, to implement programs and help develop young people so that they are ready for the workforce.
And this goes all the way up to partnerships with the National Retail Federation where young people at Boys & Girls Clubs can get a credential. That means they’re certified in some of these customer service skills and what’s needed to go and get a retail job. So we create this pathway. We have learning experiences, internship experiences, on-the-job learning experiences along the way as well.
So our goal is to be the largest life and workforce readiness apparatus for young people in the country, and we’re going to be there within three years. So it’ll be thousands and thousands of young people being prepared to go on and get a job. And of course, we have some signature programs inside of that.
We have CareerLaunch/ job ready. And one of them, we chatted briefly before we started, is about Schwab. Through the Charles Schwab Corporation, one of our programs in the life and workforce readiness suite is Money Matters. So it’s also teaching young people how to manage money, yes, but it’s about economic skill development, as well as financial literacy.
So over a million young people have gone through that program, thanks to Charles Schwab and Charles Schwab Company.
Denver: That’s great. It’s always been the case, but it does seem more pronounced today that the soft skills really are the hard skills. And it just seems that with artificial intelligence taking over so many of those hard skills, it is going to be that ability to do customer service and communicate and innovate…. And all those things are what would truly make us human, so it’s great to see that you’re in the forefront of all of that.
The way you make a difference is through your impact. And Jim, give us some of the numbers as it relates to graduating from high school and volunteering and things of that nature, as it relates to the impact that your programs have had on these young people.
Jim: Sure. And we do measure, Denver, at Boys & Girls Clubs of America; we measure the experience young people are having, both rolled up nationally, but then every one of our clubhouses, all 5,200 of them, measure the experience that young people have so they can understand where it’s great.
What we do know is the outcomes in young people’s lives go up, and I’ll give you a couple of those in a minute. And at the same time, where there’s a gap opportunity, they can see that in their particular clubhouse. So this is an important topic for us. So a couple of the statistics, which I think are impressive. One is: 75% of young people at the Boys & Girls Clubs expect to go on to college.
And as you know, college enrollment over the last 10 years has dropped by over 30%, so that’s an important stat. 93% of our 11th and 12th graders say that they know what education or training that they’re going to need for a career. And 91% know what the cost of that is. Again, I think those are some really important parts of what young people need to understand.
62% of youth are confident they have the skills needed to be successful in a job. Again, this goes back to the job readiness, life and career readiness that we were talking about. Kids that attend Boys & Girls Clubs regularly get more As and Bs in school. They are more physically fit than their peers. They get more days of 45 minutes of physical fitness than their peers do.
And 95% of club parents we survey as well say that the club plays an important role in their families’ life. So a lot of great things come out of this. And I guess another one that’s really important that we measure is: Are kids staying away from substances? substance abuse?
And if you’re a Boys & Girls Club young person that attends regularly, the likelihood is you will stay away from alcohol and drugs at a higher rate than the general population. So these are important factors in terms of outcomes in young people’s lives, but also what kind of experience that they’re having.
Denver: Well, those are numbers to be proud of, Jim. No question about it. You mentioned parents before. How does the organization involve parents and guardians in the development of well-being in their children?
Jim: Denver, great question! And as you can imagine, when we focus on young people and in neighborhoods and communities that need us most, not all times are parents involved or as engaged as we’d like them to be. When they are, the results are better for sure, which is a positive.
At the same time, many single-parent families… and the single parent is working sometimes two jobs or three just to make ends meet…so really having a robust level of parental engagement, sometimes it’s just not possible. So when it is, yes, it’s great to have the parents engaged in helping with young persons’ development, whether that’s programs that we have available through our technology that they can use at home, or helping a young person with their homework at home.
All of the things we might do at a Boys & Girls Club, we also encourage them to do at home with a parent. And then it’s about recognition. When we can have parents come in and help celebrate when a young person does something impactful, from sports to academics, those are important moments for these young people that they don’t always get in other places.
Denver: Well, there’s a lot being done here, and all of it, I know, takes money. So tell us a little bit about your fundraising and who some of your key partners are.
Jim: Sure. Well, Denver, if you look at the aggregate revenue from all Boys & Girls Clubs across the country and roll it up, it’s about $2.6 billion in terms of revenue. About a third of that comes from public sources– government, and the other two-thirds is philanthropic, so private.
So we are a private entity, of course, and depend on private funds coming from corporations, individuals, foundations. We have a strong, strong corporate base of supporters and partners that have been with us for a long, long time, and new ones coming in, regularly.
So one of our longest-serving partners is the Coca-Cola Company, 76 years they’ve been a partner, back to when Robert Woodruff was on the national board for Boys & Girls Clubs. Ross Stores, another big partner that’s been with us a long time. Toyota, one of our major partners, Kohl’s stores, Mondelēz. Whirlpool, through their Maytag brand… we have the Dependable Care Award.
Bridgestone, the retail outlets, a big partner. Raytheon, Panda Express, Comcast, and then a couple of big sports partners, WWE, NASCAR. And Major League Baseball, over 25 years, they’ve been our partner. So we do have many fantastic, dedicated, committed supporters and partners that believe in our mission and help us accomplish our mission.
Denver: And a lot of sports stars are dedicated to you as well, correct?
Jim: They are. We have a great group of sports and celebrity alumni, Denver. In fact, just to give you the big alumni number, one in 19 Americans is a Boys & Girls Club alumni.
Denver: Wow, that’s a nice number.
Jim: So it is. And to your point about sports celebrities, we have from Sugar Ray Leonard to Evander Holyfield. On our board, Alex Rodriguez, baseball player, learned how to play baseball at a Boys & Girls Club. And the list goes on and on.
And celebrities, Denzel Washington has been our national spokesperson for over 20 years. He also serves on our national board. Larry Fitzgerald, the football player, is on our national board. So the list is long.
And what’s great about the group of our alumni, celebrity alumni, is they all care deeply about this mission. And when they reflect back, hindsight’s always 20/20 when we’re adults; they talk about how impactful the experience was. And if it wasn’t for that experience, they probably wouldn’t be with us today.
And our alumni tell us that; 54% say that the Club not only changed their life, but saved their life.
Denver: Wow. You mentioned young people going to Washington and speaking to their Congress people and so on. What does the organization do as it relates to advocacy and policy work to support the needs of children and teenagers?
Jim: We do have a government relations team that works at the state level as well as the federal level when it comes to advocacy, but also to your point, policy legislation. So, for example, we talked about workforce a few minutes ago; our government relations team works with the Department of Labor and Congress to support legislation for funding to support workforce readiness and job readiness and skill development for young people.
So that’s one big effort our team in Washington, D.C. has been able to accomplish. At the state level, they work with state governments to secure resources to support our key areas: academic success, good character and citizenship, healthy lifestyles, and some of its capital.
Many states have capital allocations– State of Washington, Connecticut, to support buildings and facilities, and some of that’s at the city level. So that’s a little bit on the funding and policy side. On the advocacy side, it really is all about… this is with private as well as public government, advocating for what’s right for young people and what they need.
And this, again, can come from academics. For example, we are a big recipient of 21st Century Community Learning Center funding, almost $100 million a year through the Department of Education. So there it’s all about the academic success and academic needs for young people in the out-of-school time space.
We’re fortunate… Secretary Cardona was a local board member at the Boys & Girls Club for over 10 years up in Connecticut. So he really understands how this partnership with schools and out-of-school time organizations is really, really important. So it’s really building. If we didn’t have him there, if he wasn’t the secretary, we would want to build that relationship through advocacy to make sure whoever is an appointed or elected role understands the importance of the work that we do and the results that we achieve.
Denver: I can only imagine that 1 in 19 number works for you in an awful lot of ways. You’ve been at the helm here for about 11 years, since 2012. Tell us a little bit about your leadership philosophy, Jim, and maybe how it’s evolved as the workforce and the world has changed over the course of particularly the last few years.
Jim: Yeah. Denver, great, great question. Thanks for asking. Before we started this, we were kidding around a little bit about our upbringing in a very corporate setting with ties/ suits. So that’s one big change. I would say that’s evolved over the course of time. But…
Denver: What do you do with your ties? We have to talk about that. I got so many great ties. I have nowhere to wear them, you know? What did you…
Jim: I have them all. I have them all. And once in a while I still wear them. So, anyway, as I think about leadership, it is all about leadership. It doesn’t matter what role or what position or what organization you’re with, Denver. It’s about leadership.
And the recipe at a Boys & Girls Club is like anywhere else. It’s really simple. You have a great CEO, you have a great board, in our case, you have a great Boys & Girls Club. So I start with that framework and focus on it. And then personally, I use a lot of the old adages that your parents or grandparents taught you, and they’ve served me well over time.
Starting with, I never would ask anybody to do anything I wouldn’t first do myself. The second big one is: treat others as you want to be treated. And that is so real today in the society we’re living in. And I think if everybody just paid attention to that one, we’d have a much more civil society.
And then as I think about leadership in the business side of Boys & Girls Clubs or anywhere… I’ve always believed in this philosophy. There’s only two ways to go, two ways to go in life, personally or professionally, and that’s up or down. I’m not interested in down and particularly with Boys & Girls Clubs, down is not a good thing when it comes to kids. That means they’re going to get something less in their life.
So I always want to be moving to the right and pointing up when I think about what we need to do. I believe in always taking the high road. Even though it’s sometimes easy to take other roads or other paths, taking the high road always has paid off for me. And then you have to pay attention to what’s going on.
And I find it interesting, no matter what direction you decide to go, somebody is always there to tell you it’s wrong. So you have to have that courage, that conviction, that drive, that tenacity, that spirit when you’re a leader.
And then relationships matter. I said taking the high road, but I think a lot about relationships.And it’s interesting, I think people all think they have a lot of relationships and many do, but there’s always more to have. And that’s how things get done. That’s how things get moved. That’s how you raise more money. That’s how you provide better experiences for young people. And so I really believe strongly in building and creating a lot of relationships.
Denver: Yeah, you’re absolutely right. I think what a lot of people have too, is that they have transactions with people, and they mistakenly think it’s a relationship. But it’s very, very thin, and I also loved your observation about going up or down because I think a lot of us sometimes say to ourselves: If I can just stay where I am right now, I’ll be good.
Well, the fact of the matter is you can’t stay where you are. You’re either going to go up or down. We’d love to keep the status quo in certain cases, but it’s impossible. It’s moving in one direction or another.
Well, how does that philosophy manifest itself in the workplace culture? How would you say it looks in terms of the people who work there? What do you try to do to influence it and to shape it?
Jim: Yeah, great question, Denver, as well. So at BGCA, there’s kind of two big buckets I always think about. There’s our national team, and then there’s the rest of the enterprise that is very locally driven. And they’re both cultures. There’s two cultures here. The beauty part of both is we are perfectly aligned and know exactly why we’re here.
And every survey we do comes out in the high 90% range of why we’re here, and that’s because of the mission. So being a mission-based organization, ours or others, the alignment to the outcome or what we’re doing is amazing. And I think so many for-profit companies salivate to have those types of scores when it comes to alignment of why we’re here.
Second, as I look at culture, as I said, I live by these adages most of the time, and I firmly believe that it’s really what enables me to be myself. So I work hard at this authenticity, if you will, in being yourself and not trying to create this aura or this air of something else. Everybody has an ego. I try not to let mine get in the way of what we’re doing because we just don’t have time for it.
Another big part of what I’ve preached for, since I walked in the door, is: Family First! because if you don’t have a great family life, it makes it so difficult to do the work that we need to do. And right next to that is your health. If you’re not healthy, again, it makes it really difficult to do the work that we do.
Third or fourth here is: it’s about trusting your team. Getting the right people in. Talent is everything. And then you have to trust them to do the job. And when you do, sure, there’s going to be some mistakes, but those are learning opportunities. And in the end, you will move further, faster, quicker, than you otherwise would.
And then I try to pay attention to the little things. You can’t catch them all, but the little things. And an example of that, again, culture-wise within our enterprise, locally across the country, I make sure I get to some of our smaller markets, whether that’s Tupelo, Mississippi, or Perry, Florida. Making sure that they get equal time and equal billing, if you will.
In fact, I prioritize them when they all have galas and events and want me to come and speak. And I prioritize the smaller ones because they normally won’t get that type of attention. And so it’s that type of thing that matters to me because the big cities are going to get me anyway. I’m there all the time.
But I go out of my way to make sure I pay attention to some of the smaller markets. And then, again, it’s the details. It’s the little things that matter in life. And the more you pay attention to those, the more of a trusted, genuine, authentic leader you will be seen as.
“So I think that’s been our success story, is listening carefully to parents, especially parents of younger elementary age kids that don’t always know what they want to say. Second of all, listening to educators, teachers; listening to teens and kids themselves; and then listening to nonmembers, kids and teens that aren’t part of our movement, and understanding what it would be to attract them.”
Denver: Yeah, very often you remember little things more than you remember the big things. They’re just those nice little touches.
Finally, Jim, what have you personally… and the organization as a whole learned from the young people you serve? And how has that influenced your approach and your programs?
Jim: Well, first and foremost, Denver, as you know, young people are not afraid to speak their minds.
Denver: They got opinions.
Jim: Yeah. And so therefore, getting feedback or input is pretty easy and frankly pretty accurate when you think about it. So, to me, it’s all about remaining relevant and contemporary in the lives of young people, kids and teens.
So you do have to listen. And at the same time, if you think about a nonprofit, right, we’re a nonprofit organization. We don’t always have the resources to be on the bleeding edge of anything, and so we have to pay very close attention to that time horizon because we have to get there.
And if you don’t, you’re not going to remain relevant or contemporary, whether that’s technology, AI we were talking about earlier, or just the latest when it comes to what young people are interested in… gaming; all of these things matter.
So I think that’s been our success story, is listening carefully to parents, especially parents of younger elementary age kids that don’t always know what they want to say. Second of all, listening to educators, teachers; listening to teens and kids themselves; and then listening to nonmembers, kids and teens that aren’t part of our movement, and understanding what it would be to attract them.
And then again, to the contemporary part, we listen carefully. When you think about workforce readiness, some of these things have been around forever, but kids want to know how to be a drone pilot today. And if you’re not offering those types of courses or those types of instruction, they’re not going to come.
So you have to really stay relevant in terms of what’s happening in young people’s lives and listen carefully to what they’re saying.
Denver: Well, all this listening has certainly kept you young. No question about it.
For those who want to learn more about the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, or a local club in their area, or financially support this work, tell us about your website, Jim, and what visitors will find on it.
Jim: Sure, bgca.org is our site, and feel free to go, and I welcome everybody to take a look. When you go to bgca.org, you’ll find everything from our… a lot of what we talked about today, our programs, our services. There is the: Find a Club key on the site where you can locate a Boys & Girls Club near you to do exactly what you said, Denver: get involved or support.
There is a Friends & Alumni page as well that you can join if you were part of the Boys & Girls Club when you were younger. And then really all the type of information you would want to know about Boys & Girls Clubs, from the statistics we talked about, the demographics of the young people that we serve… is all available on our site.
Denver: Great stuff. Well, thanks so much for being here today, Jim. It was a real delight to have you on the program.
Jim: Well, thank you, Denver. And it’s been a pleasure being here, and I appreciate all that you do as well.
Denver: Thank you.
Denver Frederick, Host of The Business of Giving serves as a Trusted Advisor and Executive Coach to Nonprofit Leaders. His Book, The Business of Giving: New Best Practices for Nonprofit and Philanthropic Leaders in an Uncertain World, is available now on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.