She’s got the formula for funding!
BGCGW’s Chief Executive Officer, Gabrielle Webster, was featured in an Executive Profile in the Washington Business Journal.
This Washington nonprofit leader knows the formula for funding
Gabrielle Webster, president and CEO, Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Washington
JOANNE S. LAWTON
By Emily Van Zandt – Associate Editor, Washington Business Journal
May 24, 2018, 1:39pm
A year into her role as president and CEO of Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Washington, Gabrielle Webster can trace her favorite time of day to the minute. At 3 p.m., kids from the elementary school up the hill flood into the club attached to the executive offices on Benning Road in Northeast D.C.
“At that time in the afternoon, you get a little tired. That’s about the time the kids come down,” Webster said. “It’s a little bit of euphoria. This is what we’re here for.”
Webster’s organization — which reported more than $10 million in revenue in 2016 — currently serves around 13,000 kids, ages 5 to 18, at centers across Greater Washington.
What was your early career like? I actually started out as a chemical engineer and the majority of my career was at Kodak. I really started out doing lab testing and things you would think of that a chemist does.
Were there a lot of other women in the lab? In my very first job, I started at a chemical company in Delaware and there were a couple hundred engineers. I was the only African-American female in the organization. It was tough to come right out of grad school and have that environment. Trying to be successful in an environment where people really weren’t pulling for you helped set the tone for my entire career.
Does your science side still come out? It’s always here. I go over to the clubs and do some of our STEM activities. If we’re doing something around chemistry or physics, I tend to pop my head in and enjoy a little of that.
What drew you to this work? My mother and grandmother were both educators. I saw the work they did with youth and the effect it had on them.
Biggest challenge so far in your role: I think the hardest challenge is always making sure you have the right staff in the right roles to support the organization and make sure that we’re moving forward. And also really learning the whole process. We actually have whole facilities and a fleet of busses. It’s not just the mission and the fundraising, but it’s all the other little things.
What makes the Greater Washington clubs special? Our programs. We know that they’re special, and we’ve been recognized by Boys and Girls Club of America about how special we really are. We won an Honor Award this year for a bullying program that we have. We won an Honor Award last year for Our Lives Matter — which is community conversation among our kids, parents and the police in Ward 8 — to win two Honor Awards out of 4,000 clubs nationally is unheard of two years in a row. I think that’s what makes us most special.
Where would you like the organization to be five years from now? I’d love to serve more kids. Many of our clubs are at capacity. In a couple of weeks, the parents will line up to get the kids into summer camp and the line will be around the block. But the answer is always that there are more resources needed to open more clubs.
Is there a dollar amount that you need? It’s many, many millions. It costs us about $1,500 to support one youth. We’ve had other people who have done capital campaigns and they’re looking at $20 [million] or $30 million to start another location.
Where would that location go? We want to be able to serve the kids that need us most. Wards 7 and 8 could certainly use another location, or two or three.
What do you wish donors knew about the organization? Frankly, we do need revenue. That will never end. What I want them to know is that their funds would be well spent. I encourage anyone to come and visit a club. When you get here you see the joy, you see them learning, you see them being able to be kids. I’ve never brought anyone in who didn’t leave wanting to be more involved. For many kids, this is the best part of their day.
Favorite part of your job? I like raising money and I think you have to for this job. It’s a challenge, especially in this environment. But it allows you to go and talk to people and share the story. When I come back with support it helps me realize what more we can do to help the kids. I have grown to truly enjoy it.
On fundraising in D.C.: While D.C. is a big city, the corporate climate is not as broad as others. I think we all know individual giving is where you can truly shine. We have been really grants focused in the past and we are shifting that focus to individuals.
Proudest moment? I think when I got my first $1 million gift. And we’ve had a few more, some recently, thank goodness. The first time you see that amount on a check it makes you realize how powerful money is in support of a mission.
Who do you look to as mentors? I would say there are two ladies in the local community who have been women that I’ve always looked up to: Marie Johns and Barbara Lang. I watched how they led their teams with such great skill, compassion and excellence. I always try to model myself after them and hopefully I can do them a small amount of justice. On a larger scale, Nancy Brown, who is the CEO of the American Heart Association. I have truly admired how she has led that organization as one of the few women in that type of role.
Best business advice: I had a boss at Kodak who once told me that fair trumps everything. I’ve always tried to be extremely fair in my work life and in managing staff. Fair doesn’t mean necessarily treating everyone the same, but if I’m fair in making my decisions, I can always live with that.
Least favorite work task: Dealing with buses. The buses are always something. A tire or the air conditioning. When you have 30-some buses, there’s always something.
What do you like best about living in Prince George’s County? I like living in an area that’s predominately African American and professional. My neighbors are people that I have so much in common with. It is a community that is a community. We gather and have cookouts and play cards or just have conversation. We also have a great golf course. I try to play golf. I will always be practicing.
Hobbies: Interior decorating is one of my big things. I have many friends who call me to help them with colors or items or shopping. I can be found quite often shopping with friends for new lighting or furniture. I love to just go in the stores, walk on 14th Street into the various furniture stores. It gives you a lot of great ideas.
What’s your favorite room in your house? Probably my dining room. The artwork is pretty. It’s an intimate room, it’s not big. It makes you feel cozy. I think the colors and the chandelier with the art make it a very interesting room. We used it at Easter and it sparkled. When we first moved into the house before the kitchen was done, we ate in the dining room every night.
On travel: I would say while I love the architecture of Paris, I think Istanbul is my favorite place. The history and the beauty and the people are absolutely amazing. Santorini is probably the most amazing place I’ve ever seen. I want to do Italy, experience four or five cities in Italy and spend a few weeks just exploring.
Where did you get the travel bug? My grandmother was exploring the world 30, 40 years ago. When people were just taking small trips she was going to Alaska and Russia and Europe and Africa. I just watched her explore the world and her fascination and love of travel really infused itself into me.
If you could have a conversation with anyone, who would it be? Martin Luther King Jr. I’d ask how he continued to persevere in the face of so many challenges daily. I think we all have challenges, but I can’t imagine the challenges that he faced. So if he could do that, I can truly do this.
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