Together with Boys & Girls Clubs of America, Bridgespan embarked on an eight-month process of first engaging with stakeholders to understand what was and wasn't working, and then designing and implementing a new structure and service delivery model. The path forward involved, among other things:

  • culture shift at the national office to exist in service of the Clubs. "If the Clubs are to be in service of the kids, how does BGCA recognize the change agent is actually the Club—not the national office?" says Bridgespan Senior Advisor Alan Tuck, who led the project with BGCA.
  • More customized supports for BGCA's varied Clubs, as well as making sure the right people were serving those Clubs. "Some Boys & Girls Clubs are $30 million organizations and some have very small budgets," explains Bridgespan Partner Mark McKeag. "Some are located in large cities and others in rural areas. They've got Clubs on military bases. They've got Clubs on Native American lands." The diverse Clubs needed a range of supports from the national office.
  • shared accountability, so that functions such as marketing or fundraising measure their success by the impact of the Clubs. In particular, by integrating programming and fundraising, BGCA ensured the money it raised aligned with the work it was actually doing.

Devising the plan wasn't easy. "[Bridgespan] tested us," says Orr. "I think that's how you get to really good projects…when you test each other." The ultimate plan represented the largest internal change in BGCA's history, with changes to 40 percent of roles.

If dramatic change is challenging, longevity can compound the difficulties. "When you're talking about decades or 100-plus years of operations, it's just that much longer for ways of working to be ingrained," says McKeag. Bridgespan needed to help make the case for change. "Bridgespan…brings a rigor to analysis that makes it harder for people to say, 'but that's the way we've always done it,'" says Tuck. "We pull out the data. We get the inputs from lots of people.'"

For BGCA, the use of data was illuminating. "It was the first time in our organization where we really got very focused on data, and what the data was telling us, and looking outside our organization," says Orr.

This rigor paid off when BGCA finally rolled out the changes. "It wasn't just change for change['s] sake," said Orr. "It was really all about this responsibility we all had signed up for in terms of what needed to happen in this nation for kids. We knew we had to be a bigger part of that change."

Following the project launch, BGCA witnessed intense turnover. Those who stayed have realized that this is a long and emotional transition, but understand its significance to the future of the Movement and mission.

Read the full article about the Boys & Girls Clubs of America at The Bridgespan Group.