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The YWCA USA Reorganizes Starting With A New CEO, Plan

By Mark Hrywna - September 17, 2012

The YWCA USA will usher in a new era by the end of the year, not only with its first permanent CEO in more than two years, but also a new governance structure for the 250-affiliate organization for women.

The Washington, D.C., headquartered organization announced in August that former Susan G. Komen for the Cure of Greater New York CEO Dr. Dara Richardson-Heron was appointed its next CEO. Richardson-Heron left Komen’s largest affiliate in April and by May, she was in talks with YWCA. Among the loudest critics of Komen’s funding modification with Planned Parenthood, Richardson-Heron announced her resignation in March.

The YWCA’s National Coordinating Board ratified the appointment in August and Richardson-Heron joined the organization this month. She’ll serve in a part-time role during the transition to permanent CEO in December. Gloria Lau has been interim CEO of YWCA since September 2010. Lau was in place to take the YWCA through an overall assessment of the organization by Chicago, Ill.-based The Alford Group. The organization purposely had an interim CEO for 23 months until the assessment was completed.

“We wanted to take a look at the organization, where we’d been, building on that success, and look at where we want to go in the future. We wanted to work through that process and transition with an interim CEO,” said Debra Stock, immediate past chair of the national board and chair of the CEO search task force.

Richardson-Heron has been a CEO at a local affiliate but this is her first chief executive post on the national level. She foresees her role as one in which she’ll seek to create “effective national initiatives in leadership, governance, fund devel­op­ment, advocacy, leadership development, staff and volunteer development, mission fulfillment, as well as branding, communications and marketing. If I do that well, the local associations will have a much easier time” doing their jobs.

“Being on the other side of it, I’m highly sensitive to how critically important it is for both local associations and national to be respectful of the value that each brings to the organization,” said Richardson-Heron. “It’s important for the national organization to understand that their role really is a supportive one, supporting local associations doing the work of the organization on the ground,” she said.

At Komen, Richardson-Heron earned approximately $225,000 in total compensation for the fiscal year ending in April 2011. The YWCA board’s Executive Committee will handle compensation details, which should be finalized before December, according to Stock. The previous CEO, Lorraine Cole, earned an annual base salary of $233,722 in recent years, according to the YWCA’s tax forms. She earned $359,224 in her final year as CEO, including $50,000 in deferred compensation and a severance payment of $75,973. Cole served as CEO for nearly four years after her appointment in September 2006.

YWCA partnered with Korn/Ferry International to find its new leader. Starting in January with a pool of ap­prox­imately 70 applicants, the search committee studied about 20 resumes, and whittled that list to 10. Five candidates were selected for first-round interviews, and of those, three were invited back for a second round, according to Stock, who serves as CEO of the YWCA of York, in York, Pa.

YWCA’s general membership is scheduled to vote on the change in governance structure at the end of November, with two delegates from each association voting. The organization is currently organized as nine regions, each its own 501(c)(3) entity, with bylaws allowing for a range of 12 to 30 board members. Nine YWCA regions elect two representatives to serve on the national board. Three additional ex-officio seats may be filled by world YWCA board representatives, with additional at-large seats filled at the discretion of the nominating committee “to assure that the board composition demonstrates the advancement of mission,” said Stock.

Details of the new board structure are still being worked out, according to Stock, but the range is likely to be 15 to 25 seats, with five being representatives from local associations. The remainder of the board will be made up of “women who are committed to the YWCA mission and willing to make YWCA USA a philanthropic priority,” Stock said. “Fundraising will definitely be a priority for the new board,” she said.

Local associations currently pay dues to their region but not to the national office. Under the new structure, regional directors will become part of the leadership team led by the YWCA CEO. Dues will be paid directly to the national office by local associations.

Stock said it was necessary to revise the governance structure to create a “strong, vibrant YWCA national movement.” She said, “Many of our local associations are doing well, but not all, and some regions are doing better than others. The new structure will allow not only for standardization of policies and procedures but will make available additional expertise for local associations to access through the national office,” she said.

A vote on the concept by local associations, Stock said, garnered a 93 percent favorable response, and so the YWCA began revising its bylaws. “We had a pretty good idea that many were in favor of moving toward this national movement,” she said.

The new structure will go into effect Jan. 1, 2013 and a new strategic plan will be written and rolled out during the next year, along with phasing in the new board, according to Stock. With 2013 being a transitional year, she said the full effect of changes would be seen by early 2014.

“One thing that will definitely drive a lot of change that the public will see will be brand recognition that has been kind of low-profile for us for quite some time,” said Stock.

There are YWCAs that are struggling financially. Two YWCA associations closed this year after more than a century. The century-old YWCA of the Greater Triangle in Raleigh, N.C., closed in February and filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in late July. Opened in 1895, the YWCA of Indianapolis closed in June “due to financial challenges and the lack of an executive director,” according to published reports.

The YWCA’s national office has run an operating deficit in each of the past four years, according to its federal tax forms. Net assets dropped from $67 million in 2008 to $53 million in 2010 before rebounding in 2011 to $57 million. Under the current structure, Stock said the national office operates on interest from its endowment, so earnings are dictated by how well the financial markets perform.

Stock described the new structure as a hybrid, with some similarities to other national nonprofits that YWCA benchmarked. “We took pieces that we liked, we kept pieces from the current structure that work well for us,” she said. The current structure worked well for the YWCA, meeting needs since it was created more than a decade ago, Stock said. “It’s something we developed based on where we were as an organization, based on our needs.” NPT

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