for a cause
THE PHRASE “crossing the
Rubicon” usually describes
someone who has ( www.rubiconbakery.
crossed a boundary from com) and Rubicon
which there can be no Landscape Services
return. But to many in the ( www.rubiconland
San Francisco area, the scape.com), provide job
name Rubicon has come training for participants
to mean just the opposite. in the organization’s
Rubicon Programs programs while they
( www.rubiconprograms. help keep it in the black.
org) has helped hundreds Rubicon Bakery
of thousands of disabled, began as a soup kitchen
impoverished and home- but morphed into a bak-less people in the Bay ery in 1993. This year
Area cross their personal Rubicon Bakery will
barriers to reenter earn about $2 million in
society as healthy, sales, up almost 30 per-contributing members. Rubicon Bakery sells tasty cent from last year. The
Rubicon accomplishes treats that help fund training, bakery sells all-natural
its lofty mission through housing and employment pro- bakery products made
profitable ventures within grams for people in need in from scratch to about
the organization. the San Francisco Bay area. 300 retail and whole-
COURTESY OF RUBICON BAKERY
According to Dr. Rick sale outlets, including
Aubrey, executive director of Rubicon Bay Area Costco warehouses.
Programs, the organization was estab- Rubicon Landscape Services, established in 1973 when California state lished in 1979, generates about $4 million
psychiatric hospitals closed. “When the a year for the organization and employs
hospitals closed, as part of the deinstitu- about 100 full-time workers, many of
tional movement of the early ’70s, our whom are trainees. The landscape arm of
community here in Richmond had many, Rubicon offers commercial and residential
many former patients on our streets,” customers top-notch service at a very
explains Aubrey. “A group of concerned competitive price.
volunteers began finding ways to care “Both the bakery and the landscape-for them, and Rubicon was born.” service arms of Rubicon employ people
Aubrey says that Rubicon funds more who couldn’t hold jobs in the workforce,”
than 60 percent of its $13.6 million budget says Aubrey. “We pay them well and offer
from revenues generated by its enterprises, benefits, and after their training they will
fees from services and rental properties. either lead teams for Rubicon or enter the
Two arms of Rubicon, Rubicon Bakery outside workforce.”—Will Fifield
cal screening, “we also put much time and
effort into screening for the more intangible
qualities,” Fretz says. “We need people who
can be present with both their head and
Interviewing departing board members has
helped Miriam’s House, a Costco member and
2003 recipient of the Washington Post Award
for Excellence in Nonprofit Management, mesh
the expectations of board members with those
of the organization. “This has been very helpful
in refining the recruitment process,” Fretz says.
Board members play a critical role in nonprofits—defining the mission, hiring the executive director, actively fund-raising, providing
oversight and more. Just as in corporations,
board members are being asked to take on
more responsibility and to share more liability.
Just like a business, a nonprofit organization needs to show results: Did it serve its constituents and build for the future? Donors want
to know that their money is being spent on service delivery instead of overhead.
In addition, last year Congress passed new,
stricter reporting requirements for nonprofits.
“The new regulations around the topic of public trust and transparency are the biggest things
facing the nonprofit sector across the country,”
says Dave Edwards, executive director of the
San Luis Obispo County (California) Community Foundation, which channels contributions to local nonprofits.
Meeting the new requirements is a stretch
because of resource and/or time issues, Edwards
continues. “For a small nonprofit with a
$200,000 operating budget and one and a half
staff people and the rest going to good works,
an audit can cost $10,000.”
Results are important to Crafts with Conviction, an offshoot of Crayons to Computers, a
Cincinnati-based nonprofit and recent recipient
of the Peter Drucker Nonprofit Innovation
Award. The organization provides area teachers
with surplus school supplies, some of which are
manufactured with prison labor.
Crafts with Conviction founder Shannon
Carter shares report cards for both programs
on the organization’s Web site. From the number of pencils “sold” in the store to the number
squeeze you in. So it’s important to set ground helps organizations recruit board members. of children helped, and the number of inmate
rules that recognize people’s constraints. Then Miriam’s House, a Washington, D.C.– volunteer hours to the number of items pro-
“consider a blog or some other way of com- based residence for homeless women with duced, Carter tracks everything and submits to
municating that allows people who are inter- AIDS and their children, uses the Web sites regular audits. “We’re buttoned up and proud
ested in your organization to participate fully,” idealist.org and volunteermatch.com, says Tim of it,” she says.
he suggests. Fretz, development director, although primar- As any small-business owner can attest,
Today the Internet can help many non- ily for intern positions. They find volunteers there is satisfaction in a job well done, and
profits to meet their human-resources needs. through personal contacts of staff, board perhaps this is the biggest perk for those in the
Sites such as Network for Good and SERVEnet members and existing volunteers and through nonprofit field. As Page Adler of The Painted
connect those interested in volunteering word of mouth. Turtle notes, “There are so many things I get to
with charities in their areas. BoardNetUSA It takes a special kind of person to work experience and see. The old saying is true: You
provides an online matching service that with AIDS patients. Besides the basic techni- can never give as much as you get back.”