Goodwill Omaha was struggling under the weight of increasing media scrutiny of its management structure and payroll. Change was not only coming, it was becoming necessary. There comes a point when the only way to change the direction of a company is for the leadership to be shuffled or to have the person on top step away and allow some new, fresh ideas a place to bloom.Several recent media reports coming out of Nebraska offer a glimpse into what this looks like and how a painful separation, especially if it’s voluntary, can mean good things for the future of a company. Frank McGree, CEO of Goodwill Omaha, resigned willingly after a media investigation uncovered management problems some called “troubling.”
One of the most reported issues was the relatively high salary given to McGree. There were other related issues, including how much was invested in administration versus the organization’s work. Further media investigation found that many high-level leaders had relatives on the payroll … an administrative payroll that some said was unnecessarily bloated.
But headlines really hit the fan when it was reported some disabled workers were being paid less than other workers doing the same job. Worse, these workers were being paid less than minimum wage.
While this low pay was technically legal, due to a special certificate from the federal government, “legal” didn’t pass muster from a public relations perspective. The media reported, and people in and around Omaha took very public exception to the issue.
Donors threatened to revolt. Some very high profile donors who had been a big part of the region’s charity efforts in the past flat out refused to donate another nickel until major changes were made. They said McGree’s resignation was a good start but did not go nearly far enough. They want assurances and reassurances and a commitment to a change in the leadership culture from the top down. No ambiguity in that.
These additional steps could include higher accountability and visibility of board decision-making. Letting big donors see and understand what’s being done and why. This is a good first step, but, again, it’s only the beginning. Donors think they’ve been fleeced, tricked into supporting a slush fund for board members and executive staff rather than helping the less fortunate.
At this point, Goodwill Omaha leadership has two basic choices – dedicate themselves to rebuilding trust, or be prepared to be the next sent packing.
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