As concerns mount over transparency at the YMCA of Northern Rock County, a nonprofit organization that shares walls with the Y is seeking to distance itself.
The Boys & Girls Club of Janesville, which operates out of the same building in downtown Janesville as the Y, issued a statement Thursday “clarifying” that while it shares a physical address with the YMCA, the two agencies are run as separate nonprofit organizations.
Boys & Girls Club Executive Director Sara Stinski said Thursday that in the wake of news the YMCA has been denied eligibility for United Way grant funding, her agency, an after school programming center, had gotten questions about whether it has ties to the Y.
“A few of our board members have been talking with their neighbors and their colleagues, and they have gotten a handful of questions. What’s going on over there? Aren’t you (the Boys & Girls Club) tied to that?” Stinski said. “No, we’re not. Although we share a roofline with the YMCA, we are a wholly separate organization.”
The United Way Blackhawk Region said this week it spotted “inconsistencies” in financial and organizational information in the Y’s grant applications. Those anomalies prompted the United Way’s volunteer grant funding panel to make the Y ineligible for United Way funding in 2017 and more recently in 2018.
The 2018 denial makes the Y ineligible to apply for United Way funds for a two-year grant cycle between 2019 and 2021.
A United Way official spoke out this week about denying funds to the Y. United Way’s announcement came as a group of dozens of Y members since December have called for transparency at the Y. The Y members say multiple members have been suspended, and Y board members say they have been terminated after they asked Y leadership questions about its finances and rules of governance.
Last week, the Y’s newly seated board president, Jeff Jensen, resigned from the board, saying the board is “divided” and faces “complex emotional issues” he lacks the expertise to deal with.
Stinski said that news is concerning to the Boys & Girls Club because she believes there’s a sense among the public that her agency and the Y are one and the same because they operate out of the same building.
Stinski said the Boys & Girls Club and the Y have separate charters and are run under the rules of two separate national organizations. The agencies, she said, have separate boards of directors, and they file separate IRS tax filings as independent nonprofits. They’re not linked.
The Boys & Girls Club previously was involved in a joint fundraising campaign for a build-out to the facility it shares with the Y, but Stinski said the Boys & Girls Club has full ownership of its space at the Y. It’s not a tenant of the Y, she said.
The only connection she said the two agencies have now, Stinski said, is they run a joint account at a local bank. She said both agencies use the account for maintenance and capital expenses. She said use of the account by the Y or the Boys & Girls Club requires board approval through a joint-oversight board of Y board members and Boys & Girls Club members.
Stinski said her agency’s 11 employees and the Y’s rank-and-file staff are cordial and friendly to one another, but the Y and the Boys & Girls Club currently have no partnerships.
In the two years she has worked as executive director, Stinski said she has had scant contact with the Y’s upper management, including YMCA CEO Tom Den Boer.
“Functionally, it’s the bare minimum. There are efficiencies, the trees need trimming, we get them trimmed together. Otherwise, I’ve met Tom (Den Boer) twice. Both times were about a specific issue. It was fine. The issue was resolved, and that’s it,” Stinski said.
Stinski said her own agency is in the midst of its “grant-writing season,” a period of reaching out to funding sources that might help fuel the Boys & Girls Club’s $400,000 annual budget.
Stinski said her agency provides transparency in its bylaws, its finances and its annual financial reports as part of its charter through the Boys & Girls Club of America.
Having the Y operate out of the same building and be under a cloud of concern and public scrutiny has given Stinski’s organization and board of directors new insights into the burden of accountability that local nonprofits face, she said.
Transparency and oversight are vital in the nonprofit sector, particularly for agencies like hers or the Y, which operate largely with the assistance of local donors and local funding, she said.
She said her core concern is that people so strongly associate the Boys & Girls Club with the Y.
“It’s frightening to us,” Stinski said. “We’d hate to have our organization derailed through no wrongdoing of its own.”
Stinski said her organization hopes scrutiny the Y is now under will lead to the agency showing more transparency.
“The sentiment that I’ve heard, and we wholeheartedly agree with, is our community needs the YMCA. They need a Y that is strong and is transparent and is doing a great job,” Stinski said. “We’re super supportive that we want them to come out the other side of this and be a better organization.”
Daniel E. Austin
H. Richard Mullen
Rodney C. Smith
Shirley A. Thiel