That’s the assessment of a 20-year Junior Achievement veteran who is retiring from the local presidency after an 11-year tenure, effective Aug. 31.
Ironically, yet unsurprisingly in this recession-plagued world of fewer charitable dollars, Sandy Moore’s views on the future are much like those voiced last December by another longstanding nonprofit retiree. Then, United Way of Bradley County Inc. President and Chief Executive Officer Brenda Abel, whose own retirement became effective Dec. 31, 2011, pointed to some of the same challenges facing her chosen nonprofit.
The bumpy road is not exclusive to United Way and Junior Achievement, but to most other nonprofit groups that rely on public, corporate and foundation contributions, the two agreed.
“Funding is the biggest challenge,” Moore told the Cleveland Daily Banner in the same interview in which she announced her planned exodus as JA leader. “More and more nonprofits are competing for donor dollars.”
And in most communities, the pool of dollars is getting shallower. In some, it is drying up. A recent published report in neighboring Hamilton County pointed to a vast reduction in the number of nonprofits operating in Chattanooga. The most common reason has been less available funding from businesses, corporations, foundations and leading individual philanthropists — all of whom were once significant donors but who have been forced to curtail charitable spending due to recession-blamed budget cutbacks.
In her retirement letter to JA chairman Rick Platz and the full board, Moore spoke to some of the key issues facing the organization.
“The next few years will be challenging for JA of the Ocoee Region — increased demand for programs in the outlying areas, increased need to recruit good volunteers, development of a much broader funding base and the implementation of new technologies,” she said.
These are among some of the stiffest objectives that await her successor. Yet, broadening the base of community funding and recruiting a new generation of volunteers are only two of the biggest challenges. Two more involve the president’s own work schedule and heightening public awareness about the mission of Junior Achievement and its continued relevance as a partner to local education at all levels in grades K-12.
“One challenge for the Junior Achievement president will be understanding, and developing ways, to fit 40 hours into a 24-hour day,” Moore said. “Another will be to heighten the awareness of the people in the community of the impact that Junior Achievement has on the lives of our young people during their school years, and helping everyone to understand how relevant JA continues to be as a working partner to our local school systems.”
In spite of the growing challenges, they can be met with a solid mix of donor support, willing volunteers and school system interaction, she said. The latter is already a given locally.
“We have an excellent working relationship with the Cleveland City and Bradley County School systems,” Moore said.
The local school commitment to JA is so strong that once Moore officially retires as a paid leader, she will continue to work with JA as an unpaid volunteer. She will dedicate most of her efforts in promoting the JA message in outlying Ocoee Region areas like McMinn, Monroe and Meigs counties, as well as continue to serve as a classroom instructor.
“I think Junior Achievement has a viable future,” she offered. “JA will grow and change, and it will meet the needs of the community. But it will have to evolve. The mission of JA likely will remain the same, but new technologies and new goals will have to be embraced.”
Although the JA mode of operation might change, its objectives — and its basic mindset — will continue, Moore believes.
“The JA goal will always be to prepare students for a better life in this economy,” she stressed. “The importance of JA is always being relevant to students with regard to what they are learning in school.”
Examples are mathematics and communications skills. What is taught in school classrooms in these areas will need to be reinforced, and expanded, by contemporary JA instruction, she explained.
Another JA goal will be to stay abreast of what education is doing in other countries and different cultures ... “and how this will translate into their work world,” Moore cited. It’s all about the new global economy and keeping up in order to sustain American competitiveness in the business, financial and educational worlds, she added.
What needs to happen locally for Junior Achievement of the Ocoee Region — comprised of Bradley, McMinn, Monroe, Meigs and Polk counties — to do its part?
“It will require strong leadership,” Moore said. “Board members and the staff will have to be fully committed. They will have to be flexible, and in some instances they’ll need to be risk-takers.”
That’s not all. The communities will have to remain close partners with JA.
“Community support will be vital,” she explained. “JA must expand the core group of companies that support it.”
This wasn’t a problem in 1965 when JA was first chartered in Bradley County. Then, area industry was primarily responsible for its launch. The industrial base remained strong into the early 1990s. However, JA pulled away from its popular after-hour programs in which students formed their own companies, devised their business strategies and actually made profit dollars as learning models for their future careers. This limited community exposure and also impacted the base of industrial support.
Since the change in focus, JA has continued to be successful in daytime classroom instruction and activities, but the same level of corporate financial support and community awareness has not returned.
“A strong industrial base is extremely important to JA, but this has not funded our programs like it used to,” Moore said. This is why future JA leaders, board members and volunteers will need to work to identify more — and new — financial backers, she added.
Entering her final three months as JA president, Moore offered several tips to her successor. A few include:
1. Involve young business people in the community as volunteers and board members. “We need more young blood,” she said. “That’s a key.”
2. Learn to roll with the punches.
3. Develop techniques that will help to handle job-related stress.
4. Don’t be afraid to explore new ideas.
5. Look for new ways to operate JA that might be more efficient and effective.
6. Make full use of new technology and the social media.
7. If at any time the workload seems overwhelming, “... go into the classroom and teach a JA class; that will bring back to home who we are, what we’re doing and why.”
8. Stay calm, open-minded and wide-eyed, “... and don’t take yourself too seriously.”
Moore’s two decades of JA service have not only come in the Ocoee Region, but also in other JA communities like Charlotte, N.C., Cocoa Beach, Fla., and Nashville. Her career has left her with some lasting memories, a few of which include having lunch with President George H.W. Bush and first lady Barbara Bush at a JA convention in Orlando; opportunities to travel on behalf of JA, and to relocate to other cities while remaining affiliated with the organization; launching the first “Reality Check” instructional program in Bradley County; and initiating JA’s biggest fundraiser in the Ocoee Region, the annual Bowl-A-Thon that has raised more than $250,000 in Bradley County since 2001.
Whether as a paid staff member or as a civic-minded volunteer, Junior Achievement will remain a part of Moore’s life.
“During my years with JA, I have always seen it as being heads above in the nonprofit world in mode of operation and professionalism,” Moore offered. “The JA mission has remained close to my heart, and I don’t see that changing even in retirement.”
Leaving JA in a full-time capacity won’t be easy.
“I will miss the people I have interacted with on a daily and monthly basis,” she stressed. “I have met so many wonderful people in this community. I will miss their interaction.”
But after two decades of service, she realizes the time has come to hand over the reins to another generation of JA leadership, and to give more time to herself and family. She’ll start with a trip to Europe in September, and then will spread herself thin among seven grandchildren who are scattered from South Carolina to Ohio and into Middle Tennessee.
“One thing I have learned over my tenure here is how God has had His hand on the JA organization locally,” Moore closed. “This has helped me to realize that He has gone through this with us. A very strong faith in Him has made all this possible for me. This has been very important in how I’ve tried to conduct myself and operated Junior Achievement. It has grounded my faith in the work we have tried to do.”
Junior Achievement Hiring Notes:
- The search for a new Junior Achievement of the Ocoee Region president is under way. According to an ad published in the Banner, as provided by the board of directors of JA, applicants should submit by mail, email or fax, their resume, cover letter and salary requirements no later than June 28. If forwarded by mail, the job application information should be sent to: President Hiring (Cleveland, TN), One Education Way, Colorado Springs, CO 80906.
The information may be faxed to 719-540-6172.
Applicant information may be sent by email to: firstname.lastname@example.org (“Cleveland, TN” should be noted as the subject).
Text from the display ad identifies the requirements for the JA presidency.
“The ideal candidate will have a strong commitment to economic education and have a demonstrated record of success in foundation and special-event fundraising, as well as strong leadership, interpersonal and communication skills.”
It adds, “Diverse responsibilities also include development, volunteer recruitment, staff management, strategic planning, and financial oversight and management. A bachelor’s degree and a minimum of 10 years of combined business and/or nonprofit leadership required. A CFRE (Certified Fund Raising Executive) is a plus.”