Affirmations Makes Progress…

Affirmations Makes Progress on ED Search, reconnects with former Center Partners

(Crystal A. Proxmire 2/18/2011)

As Affirmations continues its Campaign for the Future, they’ve taken a moment to look back into the past.

Interim Executive Director Kevin Howley and members of the Board contacted over 300 former Center Partners who had let their memberships lapse in the past few years, and invited them to a reception to get them reacquainted with the LGBT Community Center and its programs.

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Though only a handful came out to the event, Board Members had called many on the list and discussed their concerns over the phone.  “We wanted to let them know that Affirmations is still here for them,” Howley said.  “We know times are tough.  A lot of the people we spoke to said they could no longer afford to contribute financially, and we understand that.  But we want them back involved.  There is a change in leadership and we need everyone’s input as we move forward.  If there was something you didn’t like in the past, now is the time to step up, get involved, and help create the positive change you want to see in the organization.”

Those who did make the reception enjoyed some delicious cookies and face-time with the Board Members.  Howley, who has served as the Interim Executive Director since November 2010 after Leslie Thompson’s resignation due to health issues, explained that his role is to help stabilize the finances of the organization while the Board searches for his long-term replacement.

“The plan for 2011,” Howley said, “is to keep things as they are right now.  We are operating within our budget for 2011 so far and we need to maintain that for the next few months as we find the right Executive Director to take over.  I want to make sure they come into a stable financial community center.  Later in the fall, once the new ED is in place, that will be the time to figure out where they want to go.  But the foundation for that future is what we are working on right now.”

The Campaign for the Future seeks to raise the $1.25 million needed to give Affirmations a strong balance sheet by paying down debts and creating the financial liquidity needed to operate date-to-day.    Thus far the campaign has raised $540,000, although only $350,000 has been collected.  “We’re mainly looking for larger corporate or retail donors,” Howley said.

He also noted that sales for The Big Bash are already going well, with 216 already sold.  The Big Bash theme this year is “Cirque du Soiree,” and features a gourmet dinner at the Diamond Center Ballroom at Rock Financial in Novi, dancing, aerial artist performances and more.  The event takes place March 19.

Affirmations Board President Mary Rose MacMillan explained the Search Committee’s process in finding a new Executive Director.  “We have asked ‘what traits do we want in a new E.D.’ and we came up with a few things that are important.  Things like collaboration, leadership, fundraising skills, financial management, and the ability to work well with others,” MacMillan said.  “After we developed a candidate profile, we had a search firm – Evergreen based in New Jersey – put the word out nationwide.”

She said that the search firm interviewed 100 candidates and narrowed it down to four that the search committee will be considering.  “These candidates will be interviewed on Saturday and we may be able to announce the candidate at the Big Bash,” she said.  She added that they don’t intend to rush into a decision, and that Howley is available to stay on and help if it turns out that more searching is needed.  She also praised Howley’s handling of the Interim position.  “Nobody expected the economy to bottom out the way it did.  I can’t tell you how the Board has been working to fill holes over the past couple of years.  We’re really lucky that Kevin stepped in.”

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“We’re starting to take a hard look at how to recruit new board members,” MacMillan said, adding that they have put a request out on online board member search forums and that they’ve been considering establishing term limits for board service.  “The greatest legacy we can leave an organization is that no one have an organization depend completely on us.”  Affirmations board elections will be held in May.

In order to be a board member, one must agree to sell a table’s worth of tickets to the Big Bash, and raise $500 for the AIDS Walk.  “We need people to understand that the organization has to raise money to survive, but it’s through fundraising so you don’t need to pay it out of your own pocket.”

Another area of growth has been the increase in volunteers.  Jon Fitzgerald, the Volunteer and Intern Coordinator, said “People have really stepped in to get involved.  I issued 248 new volunteer tags!”

For more information about Affirmations, check out their website at  For other LGBT stories from The Ferndale 115 News, see

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