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Volume 34
Issue 15
 
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Lambert House: The anatomy of a recovery
Lambert House: The anatomy of a recovery
by the Lambert House - Board of Directors - Special to the SGN

[Editor's Note: The following report to the community has been written by the board of Lambert House. No SGN editorial staff contributed to the report in any way.]

In October 2003, when Ken Shulman took over the reins at Lambert House, a drop-in social service center on Capitol Hill for LGBTQ youth, the organization was near closure, mired in debt after 27 months of red ink. Through a successful emergency appeal to the community and a drastic reduction in expenses (including staff layoffs), Lambert House was saved.

Less than three years later, Lambert House finished 2005 with its best fiscal performance since 2000, including a reserve of $50,000, which amounts to two and a half months' operating expenses. Lambert House has also eliminated all its debt.

While almost half of all non-profits in the U.S. have gone out of business in the last four years, Lambert House has experienced a dramatic business recovery. It is one of the few social service agencies that are successfully transitioning from a heavy reliance on a small number of major funders to more broad-based community support. Hundreds of individuals donate 40% of the organization's cash revenue (74% of all revenue if their in-kind donations of volunteer hours and other goods and services are included). Leveraging a large number of volunteers to provide service makes Lambert House operations highly cost-effective.

Shulman has successfully increased workplace giving by 100% over the last two years, from companies such as IBM, Merck and Microsoft. He also increased the number of third-party fundraisers, and he restored a $25,000 grant for the CyberCenter (computer lab) which had been cancelled before his tenure. Government funding, which also vanished before Shulman was hired in 2003, was restored in 2005 at a level of $20,000 a year for two years from the City of Seattle. This was the result of a community campaign mounted by Shulman to convey to the City Council the importance of renewed City support for LGBT youth services.

Other sources of organizational support over the past two years include: GLEAM (Gay & Lesbian Employees at Microsoft); Rein Fire Ranch; the Northwest Bears; Seattle Men in Leather; the Imperial Court of Seattle; St. Joseph's Church Lesbian & Gay Ministry; St. Mark's Cathedral Lesbian & Gay Ministry; numerous churches; Log Cabin Republicans; Mature Friends; the Pride Foundation; DIFFA (Design Industry Foundation Fighting AIDS); CHHIP (Capitol Hill Housing Improvement Program); Wells Fargo Bank; Home Depot; the Pride Day Committee; The Greater Seattle Business Association; and many others. Several of these organizations increased their support or became new supporters as a result of Shulman's relationship building with them.

DEMOGRAPHICS

Lambert House is one of the largest LGBTQ youth organizations in the United States, as measured by: the number of youth served (more than 400 in 2005); total number of visits (over 4,000 in 2005); range of services; facility size; and budget. A little over half of the youth served in 2005 were girls, almost half were boys, and 4% self-identified as Transgender.

"Since I came out as a Transgender woman, Lambert House has been there for my support. Because of Lambert House, I have resumed my education and found a place within the GLBT youth community. I look forward to being involved with Lambert for years to come," said Michelle, age 20, April 2006.

In 2005, thirteen youth age 13 and under were served at the request of, and along with, their parents. Over a third of youth served were ages 14-17; 60% were ages 18-22. About a quarter of youth served in 2005 were homeless. The youth are ethnically diverse and come from varied economic backgrounds.

Previous problems with disruptive, chemically dependent non-LGBT youth, which sometimes limited Lambert House as a safe place for LGBT youth, were eliminated due to Shulman's commitment to not tolerating drugs and to maintaining Lambert House as a high quality, psychologically safe experience for Queer and questioning youth. Parents or others who are interested in visiting are invited to set up a meeting with Shulman.

PROGRAMMING

New programs at Lambert House since Shulman took over include: an outdoor recreation partnership with the Downtown YMCA; a weekly seminar on dating and relationships; paid CyberCenter internships; and services for youth under 14. This latter program was a major innovation, responding to the changes in the needs of LGBT youth, as more and more of them come out at earlier ages.

In addition to the dating and relationships group, there are three other weekly groups, each with a specially trained adult facilitator: Boys Who Like Boys, Queer Young Females, and the Tranz Group. The latter group is one of the few in the country at an LGBT youth center. As a result, Lambert House was one of only three sites in the U.S. chosen last year for a groundbreaking University of Arizona study on services for Transgender youth in LGBT centers.

Other activities include a weekly movie night, monthly roller skating, and youth-produced seasonal dances (the most recent event drew 81 attendees). Dinner is provided 15 or more times each month by volunteers, including the GLOW (Gay, Lesbian or Whatever) student group from Bishop Blanchet High School. Professional counseling is available for youth (and their families).

The CyberCenter, which includes six networked computers with flat-screen monitors and an extensive array of software, a color printer, a black-and-white printer, a scanner and a copier, is open six days a week and recently expanded its hours of operation.

"It's refreshing-inspiring actually-to see the creativity the youth exhibit in the CyberCenter," said Joe Dial, Ph.D., CyberCenter Internship Coordinator, April 2006.

VOLUNTEERS

"For the last three years, I have volunteered at Lambert House. The reasons I keep coming back each week are the youth. I feel honored to know them. They are full of such promise," said Sarah Fletcher, drop in volunteer, April 2006.

In 2003, when Shulman was hired, 18 of the 42 weekly drop in center volunteer shifts were vacant. As a result, the house was frequently closed to youth during scheduled open hours. Only one volunteer training had been held that year.

Shulman immediately set out to fill all drop in center volunteer shifts with qualified, adequately trained volunteers. He hired a full time manager for the volunteer program and within six months all shifts were filled with well trained volunteers and new shifts had been added in the CyberCenter. Since Shulman arrived, Lambert House has conducted nine volunteer trainings and held seven volunteer meetings for in service training.

Lambert House now has 55 weekly volunteers who work with youth and contribute 8,000 hours a year of time and expertise. Most of them are GLBT adult role models with widely diverse racial, age, class, professional, and gender backgrounds, including doctors, executives, realtors, programmers, social-service professionals, and law-schools students. Fifty other volunteers perform special projects. One is organizing an activist training seminar for later this year, and another hopes to organize an activity group for youth age 14 and under. Applications for volunteers are accepted year-round (email volunteer@lamberthouse.org), and volunteer trainings are held periodically.

STAFFING

In the two years before Shulman took over at Lambert House, the organization lost 13 employees (on a staff that never exceeded eight) and programming staff turnover was greater than 100% annually. In the two years after Shulman took over, program staff remained stable.

Current staffing includes: A master's-level social worker who provides individual and family counseling; a licensed clinical social worker who oversees the mental health services (both of whom have renewed their commitment for a second year of pro bono service); a professional case manager for homeless youth; a program coordinator with a Harvard Ph.D. who supervises the three paid youth interns in the CyberCenter (more internships are available); three computer professionals who provide systems support for our network of thirteen CyberCenter and staff computers; a youth intern from the UW who provides facilities and administrative support; a grant-writing assistant; two volunteer grant writers; an administrative assistant; a housekeeper; and a bookkeeper who was previously a staff accountant for United Way and the Gates Foundation. Executive Director Shulman has an MPA from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. Lambert House is currently interviewing candidates for the position of volunteer manager, and a development position is being created. A new AmeriCorps activities and events coordinator may be added in September.

FUNDRAISING & OTHER NEEDS

Very shortly, Lambert House will face the end of a stable funding source, the ten-year disbursement of a portion of earnings from the Lambert bequest, which amounted to $35,000 annually. But there are many ways individuals and groups can help Lambert House financially, including: arranging for a Lambert House representative to make a presentation at your workplace; making a monthly credit card pledge (if your employer doesn't match workplace giving); or speaking to a financial advisor about naming Lambert House as a beneficiary of your estate or setting up a life annuity.

Third-party fundraisers for Lambert House are quite beneficial. Upcoming fundraisers include Northern Xposure VI, a weekend-long series of events in late August; and an XBOX raffle to be hosted by the Seattle Storm basketball team this June. Several others are in the planning stage. If you are interested in organizing or hosting a benefit, please contact Ken Shulman at 206-322-2515-*811.

There is also currently a need for board members with specific skills, such as real estate development and investment, public relations and advertising, capital campaign management, accounting, and major donor development. If you are interested in applying for a position on the board, please contact Board President Ray Nutter (ray@lamberthouse.org). Lambert House is also looking for a certified financial planner to advise potential donors on bequests, annuities and other estate planning.

So, as you can see, things are much brighter at Lambert House than they were in late 2003. More good things will happen with your support!

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