Youth Services

Boys & Girls Club of Glasgow-Barren County

Glasgow, Ky.

Key Takeaways

Limited facility space, diminishing funds and a waiting list of children wanting to join led the Club to make a tough decision: “We were bursting at the seams.” They could either run the Club one more year with the last of their available funds or they could step out with boldness and undertake their first-ever fundraising campaign. “It wasn’t an easy choice to make.”

At the time, the prospect of raising $5 million in a community with a population fewer than 15,000 was inconceivable. But, since no nonprofit in the area had ever undergone a Pre-Campaign Study, any estimates—high or low—were speculative. Following the Study, Kinetic was able to give the Club’s leadership a realistic picture: The goal was possible, if the organization’s visibility and donor relationships could be elevated. Bottom line: The Club has a new facility, and its membership has doubled.

No organization in Glasgow had attempted a project of this scale, but we trusted Kinetic from the start. The strategic, relationship-building approach made perfect sense to us.

Bob Cary, Board Chair
Boys and Girls Club of Glasgow-Barren County

Boys & Girls Club of Glasgow-Barren County: Fulfilling a Dream

The late Ruel Houchens, along with his wife, Nell, set aside a considerable amount of money to benefit children in their community. At that time, Ruel told Patrick Gaunce—then a Papa John’s franchisee with his father, Wayne—to use the money to start a Boys & Girls Club in Glasgow, Kentucky. It wasn’t long before the Boys & Girls Club in Glasgow was up and running. The board had secured leased space at the Liberty District Ralph Bunche Center and hired the Club’s founding director, Kelly Jenkins, to oversee the organization. While the leased space was a good place to begin, it was never intended to be the Club’s permanent location.

The Club opened with almost 30 members. In less than one year, it had grown to 50 members and, soon after, there were almost 150 members, and the waiting list suggested an even greater need was yet unrealized.

Everything was going so well. However, the location continued to be a concern. Although Jenkins and her small staff made every effort to use every bit of space available, there were challenges. “We loved the space and our partnership with Liberty District,” she said. “But we were bursting at the seams.”

Five years later, with operating expenses of over $200,000 each year, it became apparent the Houchens’ established fund would not sustain the organization for much longer. This is when the board began to think seriously about the long-term fundraising needs of the fledgling Club.

They needed a new building with more space, but the idea of undertaking a $2.5- to $3-million building project—on top of current and future funds—seemed inconceivable. Yet, what the Club really needed for a new location, operating funds and financial security was $5 million from a community with a population fewer than 15,000. On top of that, it was at a time not too long after the Great Recession when the country was still struggling financially.

Securing annual operating funds was a continuing problem. The Club was barely able to raise $50,000 a year with its Pancake Fry, golf tournament, a couple other small events and a grant or two. Even if they were to continue operating on a shoestring, they knew they would run out of funding in less than a year.

“We had to make a hard choice,” said Gaunce. “We could either run the Club for one more year or we could take the remainder of Nell and Ruel’s generous gift and invest it for the Club’s future. It’s clear now we made the right decision, but it wasn’t an easy choice to make.”

Gaunce spoke with his friend, Commonwealth Broadcasting President and CEO Steve Newberry, who had a connection with Kinetic*. “Steve mentioned Kinetic*. We thought perhaps our project would be too small for the consulting firm, but we knew we needed help. We didn’t know how to raise the money we needed,” said Gaunce.

“We needed millions of dollars—not just a few here and there.” They invited Kinetic to come to Glasgow to talk with the board. “No one in our town had ever conducted a pre-campaign study for a nonprofit campaign. When we needed money, we just raised it,” said Board Chair Bob Cary. “No organization in Glasgow had attempted a project of this scale, but we trusted Kinetic from the start. The strategic, relationship building approach made perfect sense to us.”

Kinetic Senior Executive Vice President Karin Cox conducted the pre-campaign study, testing a $5-million campaign to build a $3-million facility, expand the Club and provide several years’ worth of operating funds, plus estate gifts for future needs. Cox returned to the board with news that while a $5-million goal was not impossible, donor confidence in Glasgow was low, and many did not fully understand the Boys & Girls Club organization or its mission. Kinetic recommended a $3.2-million campaign with a six-month pre-campaign period to develop communications, build a donor file, establish fundraising processes and recruit volunteer leadership.

Due to their limited staff size, Cox also recommended they outsource their campaign and allow Kinetic to manage it.

Gaunce and Newberry were obvious leaders for the Boys & Girls Club Fulfilling a Dream campaign. With their commitment to co-chair the campaign, a campaign leadership team was formed with Nell Houchens and Betty Bailey as honorary co-chairs.

The first four gifts of $250,000 came from individuals close to Ruel and Nell, gave the campaign a solid start. Additional gifts continued to build confidence and momentum.

“We started having more success than we ever imagined,” said Newberry. “Kinetic taught us to know where we were going, but also taught us how to focus on the kids and to show people how the Club changes their lives.”

The original campaign goal of $3.2 million was exceeded eight months early. With the board’s encouragement, the campaign leadership team decided to increase its goal to $5 million.

Soon, the Boys & Girls Club of Glasgow-Barren County and its 175 participating members moved into its new home at the new HERO Center, and the average daily attendance quickly grew to 280 members. The new, state-of- the art facility has two gymnasiums, classrooms, commercial kitchen and security features throughout. Said Jenkins, “It’s an amazing space, and the kids feel so proud. While new building is fantastic, it is so special that these kids know how the community has put their arms around them. We won’t be able to measure the impact of the kind of love that has been shown to them through this campaign.”

When you think about what could have happened in this small community if leaders had taken the easy route and thrown up their hands up in despair, it is unsettling. Instead, these leaders chose to lead.

Many boards are good at managing what little money they have, and many organizations have become very good at operating on a shoestring. When they consider the needs of their community and share those needs in a strategic, well-planned way with the right people, they can make an incredible difference in the lives of those they serve.

Gaunce and Newberry still talk about the time they were trying to explain to their Kinetic consultant what could and could not be done in Glasgow in the area of fundraising. Cox stopped them and said (in the nicest way possible and with a huge smile, of course), “With all due respect … if I need to know how to run a pizza franchise, I will ask Patrick. If I need to know how to run a radio station, I will ask Steve. If you want to know how to raise money, ask me.” Thankfully, they listened. “At first, we wanted to tell Kinetic how to raise money in Glasgow,” said Gaunce. “After we stopped talking about what couldn’t be done, we learned a lot about why people give. But, our greatest lesson was just to get started raising money.”

*This campaign took place prior to Hartsook becoming Kinetic in 2022.

Related stories
  • Healthcare

    Branching Out

    Liberty Hospital Foundation’s campaign to expand and improve its TreeHouse was completed in record time—15 months earlier than expected—even amid changes in leadership taking place at both the hospital and foundation.

  • Museums/libraries/cultural centers

    National WWI Museum and Memorial: Call to Duty Campaign

    From the soaring art-deco tower and the bronze-door entrance [...]

  • Colleges, Universities and Community Colleges

    Stronger Workforce, Greater Community

    Adaptive, student-centered and always looking ahead [...]