Boys and Girls Club of America – Aligning Mission & Metrics

There was a Boy’s Club in my home town; however, to be honest, I had no real familiarity with it. I knew they were a ‘good outfit’ (through, what I know now, only as: ‘brand awareness’); yet, I had no first hand experience until this year. I have had the privilege of working with the Boys and Girls Club of America (BGCA) as part of a transformational advanced leadership program being co-lead between the University of Michigan Global Partnership (one of Noel Tichy’s amazing contributions), and the executive leadership team at BGCA.

What an inspiration – and what lessons the leaders of these clubs can teach other leaders in the private sector.

If there was only one single ‘takeaway’ for me, which is hard to imagine, it would have to be the way this organization – seamlessly and pervasively, fully integrates their mission with their metrics. This will forever change the way I look at private sector (and other non-profit organizations) moving forward.

Roxanne Spillett, the President of the BGCA, is a leader with a clear vision of where she wants to take this organization – or as they refer to their work: ‘the movement.’ Everything she does – and everything the 4300 BCGA clubs in the United States does – ties directly and uncompromisingly to their common mission: “To enable all young people, especially those who need us most, to reach their full potential as productive, caring, responsible citizens.”

This is who they are. This is what they stand for. This is their guiding principle and their judgment compass. Does this translate into results? You bet. Many Fortune 100 companies could learn a thing or two from this ruthless alignment of all critical investments, alliances, and decisions toward this common mission.

Many of my private sector buddies have minimized my appreciation for this – stating that ‘of course’ they have to be mission driven – they certainly aren’t/can’t be ‘money driven’ or ‘margin driven,’ this is a ‘not for profit’ enterprise whose focus is simply not fiscally driven.

To this stereotype, I say: ridiculous.

When any company or ‘movement’ deals with a $1.5 billion dollar budget, managing/leading 4300 individual, autonomous clubs whose ‘customer base’ is 4.8 million children – they are nothing, if not, fiscally responsible and accountable.

Their strategy over the past ten years was Growth. Growth measured by how many children they could reach. Did they achieve this? In a word: yes.

From 1996 with 2000 clubs to 4300 clubs just 11 years later; from serving these children in their own facilities – to now branching into schools, public housing and on every single military base in the United States – and on 80 military bases throughout Europe and Asia. More than doubling in size is an achievement that would make most private enterprises envious! Not one to rest on their laurels, this organization is now launching their most aggressive program: Impact 2012. This program is designed to provide services as deep and meaningful to the youth of their country – as their reach is broad.

Again, staying true to their mission – they want to affect change in youth’s lives globally – and in a life-changing way. Statistics supporting this mission:

Fact: today, on average, only 70% of our students graduate (this is a statistic of high school students who don’t graduate – not including those that dropped out before even getting to high school – 63% of our students are GONE, dropped out, before they reach 10th grade). Another sobering fact: only 50% of our minority students graduate.

Fact: today, on average, only 70% of our youth can meet military requirements. Of this 70% – 50% can’t meet the requirements due to OBESITY.

As Roxanne would say – where is the outrage? This is no longer a sad situation for our youth – this is a wake-up call to our Nation! This lack to attention and improvement in helping our youth become educated, healthy, contributing citizens – will absolutely affect our global competitiveness, our national security and our place in the world as the ‘leader in the free world.’ Will our country – due to this lack of awareness, attention, and resolve to improve – go from ‘great to just good?’

Their metrics for measuring their success are tight; which include: graduation rates, drop out rates, attendance and activity at their clubs, and overall performance in schools….then they tie these metrics to economic value: contribution to our overall business economy, the amount saved (or incurred) in tax payers dollars through crime reduction, drop out rate, unwanted pregnancies, etc. This cutting edge approach to accountability is tough – they are certainly charting a new path.

As you can imagine, there are many ways to slice and dice those statistics. Do youth programs, like this, really make an impact….a difference? The answer, again, is yes.

Lets be very conservative: if you look solely at the increased high school graduation rates from seniors who have been active club members versus their peer group – it is staggering. 94% club graduation rate, in one Texas metroplex club, versus only 49% for their peers who were not active in a Boys and Girls Club.

How does this play out in the economy? By industry analyst calculations, the typical high school graduate will earn an average of $9,211 more annually than a high school drop out. If you apply the multiplier on this increased contribution to the economy, in the case of a typical graduation class of 600 or so – this equates to well over $8.5million dollars for the first year alone! Apply this over a lifetime of earnings – and the ROI is clearly there.  This is just one factor. The college graduate argument is even more compelling.

Net: high school/college graduation equates to better jobs which equates to higher discretionary income, better access to health care, additional resources to care for other family members (old and young)..the list goes on. And this is just one factor with which the BGCA makes a difference.

There will be naysayers…to whom I say: if we do nothing, the ongoing course of our youth is fairly predictable. Debate the actual numbers (which are hard to argue with in the first place) and it would be comparable to ‘Nero fiddling while Rome burns.’

BGCA  has the right idea. Having every constituent, from Denzel Washington (a BGCA board member) to the individual volunteer in small town America, KNOW and EMBRACE their mission statement affects every decision, every investment, and every alliance partner. Even each and every hour spent with a child is fully aligned to their overriding mission. This strength through alignment – around a common mission statement – puts all the wood behind a single arrow. As I have heard Roxanne say numerous times: “if you want to change the world, you start with a child.”

Their results speak for themselves.