Timing, they say, is everything.
And that can be good or bad, depending on your perspective.
A case in point is the local YMCA's financial crisis -- and our coverage of the troubling situation.
Staff writer Garth Stapley's special report Nov. 4 stirred up a beehive of activity -- conversations, e-mails, phone calls, document checks, special meetings -- throughout the nonprofit sector as well as here at the paper.
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From what we've seen and heard, many people are concerned about what happened at the YMCA, why it happened, what is being done about it, and whether the local organization will survive. Others are upset at the Y's board and management. Still others are worried that news about the Y's problems will hurt giving to nonprofits throughout the community. And others are angry at The Bee for having brought the matter into the open.
And as for the timing ...
From my perspective, it wasn't necessarily good or bad; it simply was what it was. Among the things I've learned in my 37 years here is that news happens when it happens, whether I like the timing or not. In this case, the reporter wrote the story and we published it as the YMCA's debt was approaching the tipping point with creditors.
From the YMCA board's perspective, though, the timing was bad, not that any timing would have been better. The fact is, they simply didn't want the community to know what was going on. And some of them, apparently thinking they were somehow protecting the Y, did everything they could to convince us that there wasn't a problem.
For others who care just as deeply about the Y, the timing wasn't a problem; if anything, they wished the situation had been made public even earlier, long before the mounting debt reached a crisis point.
For some involved with other nonprofits, it wasn't the timing but the story itself that was troublesome. Some are worried that The Bee is going to start looking at other nonprofits. Some are worried that negative news about any nonprofit, in this case the YMCA, will hurt all nonprofits, including theirs.
Finally, for the United Way, the umbrella organization that disburses funds to more than two dozen agencies, the timing couldn't have been worse. The agency recently launched its annual fund-raising campaign, and is worried that The Bee's reporting -- on the YMCA as well as the fact that its former CEO, Steve Smith, is marketing director for the United Way -- will hamper those efforts and hurt all the agencies.
That would be a shame. Many nonprofits are struggling these days, partly because of tighter economic times, partly because the gap between the needs of the community and the money and resources available continues to widen, and, in some cases, partly because of sloppy management.
In other words, the nonprofits and the people they serve need and deserve our support, be it our time, talents or treasures.
That why it's so important, in my opinion, for nonprofits (and, for that matter, for-profits as well) to be as open, upfront and transparent as possible with the community they rely on for support.
I guess the folks at the YMCA don't think the timing is right, because that hasn't happened so far. That's unfortunate, because until it does, the clouds of doubt and distrust will continue to build and further threaten the Y's survival.
And that would be a shame.
Vasché can be reached at mvasche@
modbee.com or 578-2356.