Turning Point is an African American social services organization that helps people achieve wellness and live a self-supportive lifestyle. What was founded in 1976 as a treatment center is now a holistic social service agency, providing social services, public health programs and culturally-specific solutions to help people live productive and healthy lives.
When Turning Point Chief Operating Officer Liz Reed joined the organization, she immediately began digging into the organization’s operations and finances. She and the rest of the leadership team quickly reached out to Propel Nonprofits (formerly Nonprofits Assistance Fund) for help, scheduling a meeting with Kate Barr and Janet Ogden-Brackett to ask for a loan. “I remember Liz looking over at me from across the table,” Janet said, “and I remember thinking, ‘she’s going to be the one to make the change.'” Like most initial meetings, what began as a conversation about a potential loan evolved into a strategic discussion about Turning Point’s business model and sustainability.
With Propel Nonprofits’ help, Liz quickly learned that Turning Point didn’t have enough clients to meet expenses; in 1997, they opened a new building—and that’s when the decline began. The reality was, they didn’t have enough clients to fill both buildings and sustain the model. “I have a framed piece of paper in my office that says ‘April 16, 2009,’” Janet says. “It’s Liz Reed’s moment when she figured out that she had $1 million in negative unrestricted net assets and she would have to earn that much to get out of the red.”
“I call it my Golden Moment,” Liz remembers. “My objective at that point was to convince our President, Dr. Peter Hayden, that we needed to only provide services out of one location, and try to lease out the other one. Janet kept telling me, ‘We need to get you to 70% capacity.’ We were never going to get there with the two buildings.”
Fortunately, Liz’s plan worked. They were able to move all services to their primary location at 1500 Golden Valley Road, and lease out their other building. There were other organizations already working in the second location, so they took over the lease and continued to provide a subset of services to people for whom that location was the only option. The three-year lease also gave Liz the time to work towards getting a county exception for Turning Point, helping classify it as a Group Residential Housing organization and obtain the associated funding (special thanks to former county Commissioner Gail Dorfman for the support). For Turning Point, this meant their clients could move into room and board for two full years following their 90-day treatment program.
Liz’s transformative work, supported by a variety of loans from Propel Nonprofits, earned Turning Point more than the $1 million gap. “I just can’t tell you how much I admire her,” Janet said. “I was willing to work as hard as she was, and she worked so hard.”
Today, when Liz reflects on that time in Turning Point’s history, her voice is filled with gratitude—but also with pride. “When you’re in a crisis situation, you’re paying more than you should, and you can’t get anyone to give you a loan. It’s really terrible. There were times when we couldn’t even make payroll, and I would call Janet. She would literally come here once a week on Fridays and help me pay the bills with the little money I had. I remember one time we ended things one Friday afternoon—we had something like $500 and I said, ‘What am I gonna do?’ Janet told me, ‘You have $500, you’re gonna have to make that last!’ And that’s just the kind of relationship we have.”
When Liz looks forward to June 2016, Turning Point’s 40th anniversary, she reflects on the journey she and the organization have undergone over the past couple of decades. “I don’t think Turning Point would still be in existence without Propel Nonprofits. I literally don’t think we would be celebrating our 40th anniversary without them.”
Turning Point is on track to pay off their loan in full by the end of November 2015—just in time for their 40th birthday. Propel Nonprofits is honored to work with this incredible organization, and looks forward to another 40 years of partnership and friendship with Liz and team.