February 25, 2020
Girls Inc. Is Focusing on Its Mission – and Thriving

Deb Hokins: The staff couldn’t do it on their own if the board were only a governing body.
February 24, 2012 — Girls Inc., a Worcester nonprofit focused on building leadership skills for girls in central Massachusetts, has received three grants over the last 18 months, enabling it to serve more girls and move away from co-ed programs, develop new partnerships, and engage more volunteers – all without adding to staff.

“The agencies that are thriving and doing well now are those that are laser focused on their missions and not doing all things for all people,” observed Deb Hopkins, who came on board as executive director of Girls Inc. nearly two years ago.

Shortly after Hopkins joined Girls Inc., the organization received a five-year, $285,000 grant from its national office to encourage interest among eighth grade girls in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, commonly called STEM.

Then, National Grid last year granted $25,000 to support a six-week summer program to support the STEM initiative.

In addition, the United Way of Central Massachusetts Women’s Initiative gave $40,000 to support an expressive arts program aimed at educating the community on what it’s like to be a teenage girl today in Worcester county.

Those grants are part of a pool of funds that make up 30% of the agency’s annual, $1.6 million operating budget. The remaining income derives from program fees, contracts, and donations, including those from alumni of Girls Club of America, the original name of Girls Inc. until the late 1980s.

The inflow of new funding has spurred program growth. For example:
  • The five-year STEM program is bringing in a new cohort of 45 eighth grade girls each year.
  • The daily drop-in rate for K-6 girls at the organization’s Providence Street office in Worcester has doubled, from 30 to 60.
  • The number of volunteers has jumped nearly 40% – from 179 last year to an expected 250 this year.
  • Partnerships with other organizations have grown, particularly through the YouthConnect Collaboration, which includes Boys & Girls Club, Friendly House, Girls Inc., Hope Coalition; Worcester Youth Center, YOU, Inc; and YWCA of Central Massachusetts.
Despite the growth, Girl, Inc. hasn’t increased its staff, which stands at 11 full-time equivalent employees—including a staffer responsible for volunteer recruitment and training—plus a half dozen part-timers. That’s because, Hopkins said, the organization relies heavily on volunteers and college interns and makes judicious use of consultants.

“We very rarely used consultants in the past, but have engaged eight for the summer STEM program,” she said. “If we need very specific expertise for one week, hiring a consultant is much more cost effective than adding to staff.”

Helping to manage the growth and direction of Girls Inc. has been a fully committed, working board.

“All this growth is tied completely to a phenomenal board that understands fund raising and is masterful at opening doors, facilitating introductions of staff to funders and decision makers, and acting as ambassadors to the community. The staff couldn’t do it on their own if the board were only a governing body,” said Hopkins.

To help keep the organization on track, the board recently held a retreat and decided to host a “super camp” this year. In the past, Girls Inc. hosted a summer co-ed day program at Camp Kinneywood on the Worcester/Holden line and another city-oriented program at its Winthrop House location on Providence Street. This summer, the programs will be combined and cater exclusively to girls ages 6 to 15.

Explained Hopkins: “Our mission is to inspire all girls to be strong, smart, and bold. For us to be successful in recruiting and serving girls, we still need to look at the needs of the total family, including male siblings. We’ll assist families in identifying quality options for boys, but we won’t do it ourselves.”

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