Potrero Hill Neighborhood House Faces Financial Challenges
Concerns about the Potrero Hill Neighborhood House’s (NABE) financial condition were prompted last year after the nonprofit suspended its popular seniors’ lunch program between Christmas and New Year’s, when the rest of the nonprofit was closed. “I think it's time for an expose on the financial condition of the NABE,” Edward Hatter, the NABE’s executive director, said. It’s “poor. One of my worst nightmares.”
The NABE recently closed a roughly $4,000 deficit for fiscal year 2012, with a total budget of $946,000. Forty-three percent of the nonprofit’s income comes from the San Francisco Department of Children, Youth and Their Families, which funds case management services for youth involved in the juvenile justice system, anger management counseling, and Experiment in Diversity, an afterschool tutoring and enrichment program. Other significant funders include the Bayview Hunters Point Foundation, which supports a counseling program for youth and young adult substance abusers, and the Golden Gate Regional Center, which pays for programs for mentally and physically disabled seniors. The balance of expenses are covered through earned income, such as renting space for events, or fundraising, through the annual Potrero Hill Festival and other activities.
In the face of the NABE’s intermittent financial troubles — three years ago the nonprofit sold a parcel it owned across the street from its building for $375,000 to help balance its books — some Hill residents question the management’s capacity to effectively operate the institution, which opened on June 11, 1922. “Basic business principles were not being followed,” said one resident, who preferred not to be named. And Skip Charbonneau, the NABE’s board president, is “unable to meet the challenges of his board position.”
For his part, Charbonneau, who has been board president for about four years, said he’s capable of handling the job, particularly now that he’s retired. “I know now I can. I have the time,” Charbonneau said. “We are in the black…Barely.” However, now that the NABE has sold the last of its land holdings it has virtually no financial reserves. “We don’t have any more to sell,” Charbonneau said. The View’s calls to the other five board members — Paulette Spencer, secretary, Allen Meadows, sergeant of arms, and Gloria Fisher, Barbara Topps, and Jeremy Hunter — were not returned.
According to Hatter, the NABE is working to address its fiscal challenges, in part, by contracting with the Urban Group to “republicize” the community resource. The Urban Group is being paid $5,000 to help the NABE raise money, reorganize its board, and update program descriptions. And Hatter plans to increase fundraising. In addition to the annual Beers, Blues and BBQ event, which raises $3,500 to $5,000, the nonprofit is considering holding a “gospel explosion,” featuring gospel choirs singing at the NABE. “Items like that,” Hatter said. And the NABE may do more mass mailings and find other ways to reach out to its neighbors, including contacting dot.coms, medical companies and academic institutions. “On top of that is writing proposals for additional funding,” Hatter added. The NABE is currently responding to a request for proposals that would bring $300,000 annually for three years.
“Most of our plight is due to the fact that we are heavily dependent on grants from the City and County of San Francisco. And as administrations change, so does our bottom line,” said Hatter. This year the NABE received a 1.9 percent cost of living adjustment from DCYF and the San Francisco Department of Public Health. “This is the first COLA we've had in over ten years,” Hatter said.
According to Hatter, the NABE’s poor financial condition is partially due to the need to maintain its building, an historic landmark. He said the organization is dependent on federal grants to pay for most capital improvements. However, the NABE recently received funding from the Southeast Community Betterment Fund to replace the floors in the main hall, game and art rooms. The NABE is working on a capital campaign to renovate its basketball court, which has water damage. A decade ago the Feorr family sponsored sanding and refinishing of the court and painting the walls. “Those are the contributions and support that the NABE has survived on,” Hatter said.
We’re in the “process of re-educating people what the NABE is about. We serve everybody,” Hatter said, “not just the poor or specific groups. And that's what we're trying to express to the entire community.”
This Month's Stories