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Youth Development Key to Detroit’s Restructuring
While the Detroit bankruptcy and related restructuring of debt and retiree obligations are getting the headlines, even more important to Detroit’s long term success is dealing with the very serious social issues facing the City. With up to an estimated 47% of Detroit adults being functionally illiterate, and many not having the needed work skills to even find a job, the cycle of poverty and crime that has doomed the City will not end unless something is done to address and correct this problem.
The Skillman Group is a major Detroit based foundation that focuses on these social issues, especially related to young people in Detroit. By funding education, youth development, counseling, and after school programming, the foundation’s goal is to enable the coming generation to break the poverty cycle. Only by providing the next generation with the needed work skills can the City’s long term survival plan have a chance to succeed.
O’Keefe partners with the Skillman Group on assisting nonprofits that are facing financial struggles or need to think through their strategic direction in this era of reduced government funding and corporate contributions. Youthville Detroit was a recent nonprofit we worked with on restructuring; this group provided needed after school programming and life skills to at-risk youth. As the Director of Youthville told me “many of these kids have never seen an adult go to work”, so teaching kids how to dress, how to shake hands, how to show up on time, and other basics that many of us take for granted is imperative.
Unfortunately reductions in federal, state, county and city funding for youth development programming has been in continual decline as government budgets are being squeezed. Corporate contributions also went down during the great recession and have remained depressed. As a result, money for critically needed youth programming is tight and many nonprofits in this space are struggling to maintain their operations.
O’Keefe sees a growing need for assisting nonprofits with restructuring operations and rethinking strategic direction as budgets continue tighten. Most nonprofit boards are not equipped to deal with difficult financial decisions as most board members were appointed due to a special passion for the nonprofit mission or for their fund raising ability. Issues such as maintaining the restricted fund integrity, how to deal with cash flow issues, downsizing or reorienting operations, or as we did with Youthville, merging with a larger organization are all areas where O’Keefe can provide assistance to a growing need in the nonprofit world. It is vital to countless futures – including this city, its residents and the dedicated nonprofits who tirelessly serve both.