Grappling With Growth
You would think that after a hundred years, a nonprofit could kick back a bit and maybe even rest on its laurels. After all, it’s been there, done that — right?
Not necessarily so, says Kurt Aschermann, senior vice president and chief marketing and development officer of Atlanta-based Boys and Girls Clubs of America, which was founded in Boston in 1906.
“I like to think we’re still rolling the dice — we’re still gambling, trying new approaches to fundraising and communications as often as we can,” he says, adding, of course, that the organization’s longevity boosts its fundraising efforts.
“I think there’s an advantage to being an old-timer,” he says, “because some donors are going to say, ‘I’m not going to donate to some fly-by-night organization; I’m going with the nonprofit that’s been here a while.’”
So what keeps BGCA on its toes? The Internet, for one thing. But more about that later. The venerable nonprofit’s biggest challenge to date lies in the very thing that’s made it so big: its growth. With close to 4,000 independent local clubs around the country, the national organization faces the challenge of maintaining brand consistency and even wrangling with its own affiliates over donors.
“We’ve been opening a new club almost every day for the last four years. This ‘club explosion’ was a very conscious thing,” Aschermann says. “Our system worked. We just asked ourselves, ‘How many kids can we serve?’ The only way to do that is continuing to open new clubs.”
It took 92 years for BGCA to hit 2,000 clubs, and now, in just seven years, that number’s nearly doubled to 3,700. For the past four years, BGCA indeed has launched at least one new club every single day — 389 in 2005 alone.
‘World’s best-kept secret’
BGCA primarily reaches donors through its network of local clubs, but those 3,700 (and growing) independent clubs are run like a franchise system.