Why Now is the Time for Boys & Girls Clubs of America to Invest in Digital
By: Sara Leutzinger, National Director, External Communications & Content Strategy for Boys & Girls Club of America
Opening doors. For more than a century, Boys & Girls Clubs around the country opened their doors each day to millions of kids and teens, literally and symbolically. Clubs offered, for many, the only safe places in their communities. And local Boys & Girls Clubs helped open the door to opportunities young people might not have otherwise, offering career training, skill building, positive mentors, and pathways to a great future.
At the onset of COVID-19, many feared those doors would close. But true to its 160-year legacy, Clubs remained a safe haven for local communities.
Boys & Girls Clubs across America immediately sprang into action—quickly changing service delivery models to uniquely assist the needs of communities they serve during the pandemic. Hundreds of Clubs nationwide transformed their operations to focus on critical areas like food insecurity, education, mental wellbeing. Today, experts estimate kids have lost up to nine months of learning and youth of color potentially up to a year of learning loss. According to the CDC, mental health visits are up 31% for adolescents, and 17 million youth experienced food insecurity in 2020.
Adapting to Support a Community’s Evolving Needs
One of the many examples of Clubs springing into action to provide much-needed support during the pandemic is Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Houston, which partnered with the Houston Food Bank to host drive-thru pantries at five Club locations. The pantries provided a week’s worth of food for a family, including fresh produce and canned goods.
Similarly, Boy & Girls Clubs of Palm Beach County partnered with a program called Fresh RX Kids so Club families could drive by to collect food boxes with organic produce, bread, and eggs from local farmers, as well as canned and dried goods from local food banks.
Boys & Girls Clubs have also been more than a second home for millions of kids; they’ve been a school away from school. In Seattle, Boys & Girls Clubs of King County shifted their operations from after school to full days, supporting virtual school to address the critical learning gaps kids are facing. A year later, Clubs are still providing such a stable environment for kids that school and the Club have become synonymous, especially among their youngest learners.
“Mr. Conor is the Club program director working with our kindergarten students to assist them with their work,” Meghan Sweet, unit director for Boys & Girls Clubs of King County explained. “I was recently helping one of our 6-year-olds connect to his school learning site and needed to know his teacher’s name to log in. When I asked, he told me, ‘My teacher is Mr. Conor.’ I explained that Mr. Conor worked at the Club and I needed to know his teacher’s name from school. He couldn’t make the connection that the person at the Club who has been reading to him and helping him with his work every day was not his teacher.”
Digitizing Operations to Prioritize Relationships
The pandemic was a reminder of just how important the relationships are between our Club mentors and the kids they serve. Before Salesforce, each Club had its own way of managing administrative work like registration and reporting, which varied in sophistication level and ranged from paper notebooks to spreadsheets to cloud software. In the wake of the crisis, streamlining this disparate operations system became imperative — both for our Clubs to work more efficiently, and to free up time for our employees to better engage with the kids and teens across our more than 4,700 Club locations.
Our new partnership with Salesforce will do just that by standardizing digital technology across our Clubs nationally, eliminating manual processes, and increasing efficiency so employees and volunteers can spend more time with young members. MyClubHub, which was built on Nonprofit Cloud and implemented with help from our strategic partners Copado and Traction Rec, will allow our Clubs to better manage critical functions like youth attendance, fundraising, parent communications, donor relations, activities planning, volunteer and staff management, and new COVID-19 protocols.
It’s more important than ever that we deliver our much-needed services to the children and families who’ve been hardest hit by this pandemic. By standardizing our digital infrastructure across our Clubs, we’ll eliminate manual processes and increase efficiency so employees and volunteers can spend more time delivering personalized experiences and programs to the 4.6 million young people we serve.
One year after the pandemic shut down the country, the role Boys & Girls Clubs play continues to be critical. Educators and economists alike are trying to predict the lasting impact of the pandemic on young people and the future of the nation. A year of disrupted learning and development has sent shock waves through the world and the kids Clubs serve—and, as ever, challenges are disproportionate across rural areas and minority communities.
The connections Boys & Girls Clubs make are now even more critical as youth and communities move forward, establish new norms, and continue to create access and opportunities for young people to thrive.
Learn more about Salesforce.org’s Nonprofit Cloud.
About the Author
National Director, External Communications & Content Strategy for Boys & Girls Club of America
Sara is the National Director of External Communications and Content Strategy, for Boys & Girls Clubs of America, where she oversees external communications activities for one of the largest youth development non-profit organizations in the country. Sara has worked with Boys & Girls Clubs of America since 2013, with a focus on creating innovative public relations campaigns, developing the organization’s reputation management strategies, and building an integrated content marketing approach.
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