Kathy Thornton-Bias on prioritizing purpose in a pandemic at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee│Ep. 44

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The Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee has distributed more than 250,000 meals and delivered more than 1,000 hours of online programing since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Kathy Thornton-Bias, president and CEO of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee, pointed those statistics out during remarks at the Rotary Club of Milwaukee and noted the organization is not a food pantry and was mediocre at digital offerings.

“We’re changing direction at the clubs in order to stay the course,” she said.

“It’s knowing what your stakeholders and your customers need and going after that and going after it really hard,” she added.

During her remarks, Thornton-Bias also discussed the organization’s must win battles, the challenges of working with a big board and the need for nonprofits to collaborate more.

“We have an 8% growth in nonprofits in the state of Wisconsin. We’ve had an 8% growth year-over-year. Do you think the population of Wisconsin has grown 8%?” she said. “The answer is no, by the way. I say that to say that although there are many, many great things that nonprofits do around this community. There’s a lot of us and we’re all in some cases trying to do similar things or congruent things and things that could be patched together to perhaps provide greater outcomes. We have to operate this work more efficiently.”

Thornton-Bias said the reality is no single organization can address the city’s challenges.

“If any one organization in Milwaukee could fix Milwaukee’s problems, they would be fixed already,” she said. “If any one organization had the secret sauce, the magic key, it’d be done.”

For the Boys & Girls Clubs, that means partnering with other nonprofits to serve kids, regardless of who gets the money, Thornton-Bias said, highlighting work with Junior Achievement, Girl Scouts and All-In Milwaukee.

“If the Girl Scouts are the best at leadership for little girls, I want that for the girls of the Boys and Girls Club,” she said. “I don’t need to go make it up myself if there’s someone in the community, a partner, that does it better. That is mind-blowing for nonprofit thinking, that we would actually collaborate and work together.”

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Arthur covers banking and finance and the economy at BizTimes while also leading special projects as an associate editor. He also spent five years covering manufacturing at BizTimes. He previously was managing editor at The Waukesha Freeman. He is a graduate of Carroll University and did graduate coursework at Marquette. A native of southeastern Wisconsin, he is also a nationally certified gymnastics judge and enjoys golf on the weekends.