ACDN: How long have you been involved with your agency and ACDN?
JWB: March 2017 marks my 6 year anniversary as CEO/Executive Director at WHW. We joined ACDN back in 2003!
ACDN: What makes your organization special or unique?
JWB: The mission of WHW is to provide the unemployed and underemployed the skills and resources they need to get and keep a good job. Since 1993, WHW has served over 80,000 job seekers referred by over 275 partner agencies at no charge.
In order to accomplish this, WHW provides wrap around employment support services for thousands of job seekers each year. Programs include more than 60 Employment Readiness and Computer Training Workshops, Job Placement Assistance, Employment Retention Support and Professional Apparel for both women and men. There’s something for everyone! Job seekers are able to choose the workshops and programs that are best suited to their job search and that address their particular need. This is important since WHW serves all job seekers, whether they are entry level or seasoned executives.
WHW is a very data driven organization, investing in technology to effectively evaluate and measure the success and impact of programs. These evaluations and measurements are used to refine and create new programs based on job seeker needs and outcomes. WHW regularly provides these statistics and metrics to supporters to verify the impact of their investments. Metrics include number of job seekers served, number of job seekers who gain employment, percentage of job seekers who are still employed 90 days after employment, among others. Current data shows that 75% of WHW job seekers who are enrolled in our Employment Readiness services will get a job within 4 months, which is three times faster than the national average of 12 months. And 90% of those employed will still have their job 90 days later, increasing their household income by over 600% and saving our community over $30 million in social assistance payments.
ACDN: How has this work affected you?
JWB: It is incredibly rewarding to be a part of changing someone’s life. We empower each of our job seekers to see someone in the mirror who can, instead of someone who can’t. And in the bigger picture an entire family is changed and a community is improved. Being part of a solution that gives people hope and often times a second chance is something most people never experience.
ACDN: What is your biggest challenge as an Executive Director and how are you overcoming this challenge?
JWB: To remain relevant and to make a real impact, WHW must be very nimble and flexible in our programs and their delivery; which means constant CHANGE. Bringing about change in an organization with 11 staff and over 1,000 volunteers can be challenging. I have tried to create an environment where change and innovation are highly valued. Those who are delivering direct service to our job seekers have great insight and their opinions are highly mean a lot. As a fundamentally impatient person, change never happens quickly enough for me. But I constantly remind myself that a freight train can’t stop on a dime!
ACDN: Tell us a success story about your organization.
JWB: Two years ago, WHW moved from a clunky, old Access database for our client intake to a very sophisticated platform, which is a customized version of Salesforce. As a result, we have become very data centric, and are able to provide rich outcomes to both funders and individual donors, which clearly demonstrate the impact of their investment in WHW. We’ve also been able to expand the database to include volunteer registration and scheduling, which has allowed WHW staff members to focus more on development and program delivery and less on administration.
ACDN: Tell us a client story.
JWB: When Russell Cannon walked through the doors of WHW, he had been in the Welfare to Work program for 2 years; he was underemployed, he had no transportation and he had no insurance. And the worst thing…he was about to lose custody of his 1-year old daughter. Russell did not believe that the state program was working. WHW staff and volunteers diligently addressed the particular needs that Russell had as a job seeker. Russell participated in Employment Readiness Workshops that empowered him with an effective resume and confident interviewing skills. Russell also received professional apparel and accessories that helped him to stand out from other job seekers and become a marketable candidate for jobs that he had only dreamed about. Russell shared that WHW programs “provided relevant content that gave me the skills to find, negotiate and retain full-time employment with good pay and benefits.” Today, Russell has three jobs! He is an Assistant to the Executive Chef at Disneyland responsible for feeding over 23,000 cast members; he is also a Lead Cook at Orange Hill Restaurant overseeing the Sunday Brunch, which was for the first time in their history, voted the 2016 Best Brunch in Orange County. And his most important job is a full time Daddy to his now 2-year old daughter. Russell recently shared with WHW supporters, “if it were not for your donations, I would still be in the Welfare to Work program, just looking for any job I could get. I would most likely be underemployed, still have no transportation or insurance and my precious daughter would be a ward of the County. The reality is those whose donations enabled me to be part of WHW, saved money, because now I can pay my own way, I can pay my own taxes and I can leave something for the generation that follows me.”
ACDN: Complete these statements:
Being a member of ACDN enables our agency to…
JWB: …share and learn best practices from other organizations working toward the same goal of helping people get back to work. Being a member of ACDN allows WHW to be part of something bigger than just our own community; we are contributing to the betterment of communities nationwide.
If it were not for ACDN, …
JWB: …WHW would not have access to the wholesale buying power of ACDN. Plus size suits available to partner agencies has been a true blessing to WHW.
ACDN’s Interview Feature showcases ACDN Member leaders. This includes founders, executive directors, and program managers. The interviews offer a more in-depth perspective on the critical work our member agencies do throughout the year and demonstrates the impact on their community.