In Focus: Precedent-setting donation offer requires thoughtful decision process

The Boys & Girls Club mission is to enable all young people, especially those who need us most, to reach their full potential as productive, caring and responsible citizens. We love to talk to the community about our mission, the kids we see at our clubs, our dedicated staff members, the meaningful programs we offer and how this generous community has supported us since we opened in 1996.

Our nonprofit organization is not bound by political or faith-based principles. The Boys & Girls Club of Benton and Franklin Counties is, however, the first out of 4,000 chapters in the Boys & Girls Club of America to be faced with a donation that explicitly came from the public sale of legalized marijuana.

In late November, we were approached by Fireweed Farms of Prosser with a $14,000 donation generated through legal business activities in the state of Washington. This was a significant donation to our work and we were thankful that the Boys & Girls Club was considered for this gift, which would have been used to provide substance abuse prevention education at our club in Prosser.

Instead, it generated an unexpected level of community debate that made it clear this situation is setting a precedent among local nonprofit agencies and potentially for Boys & Girls Clubs across the nation.

The complex opinions we gleaned from our partners, current donors, potential sponsors, staff, client families — and even from the youth who spend their afternoons in our clubs — behooved our board of directors to engage in a process of thoughtful dialog and research into a formalized gift acceptance policy. We ended up with more questions than we had answers.

This investment of time in this process meant the original donation from Fireweed Farms was no longer available.

While we might be among the first to tackle this issue, we’re certainly not alone. Nonprofits from youth organizations to universities — throughout Washington state and the United States — are pondering how this new source of donations will affect everything from rules for federal funding, perception of our youth, differing opinions of current donors and continued work with community partners.

The directors of our board took all of this — and more — into consideration as they responsibly considered this one particular gift and patiently laid the foundation for future decisions.

As serious stewards of our organization, with diverse beliefs that reflect the breadth of our community values, our board believes in showing principled leadership to grow our base of financial support and strengthen community advocacy. The Boys & Girls Club is grateful for the ongoing generosity of a community that wants the brightest future possible for its children.

Brian Ace, Executive Director

Kees Koster, President

Marilee Eerkes, Secretary

John LaFemina, Resource Development Chair

And additional board members