Accomplishments | Susan Putnam

Susan Putnam

 

Award-winning Community Relations Professional and Non-profit Leader

Grand Rapids, MI

989-430-8552

susan.putnam1526@gmail.com

Organization Leadership Insights

"There is nothing more important to an organization than the passion that resides in the hearts and souls of the staff, the Board, donors and the community."

– Susan Putnam

Negotiated for the Acquisition of New Office Space while Simultaneously Building Outstanding Community Relations

It was the middle of winter, but there was one particular building that had been on the market for nearly a year.   It was known as the “Bolger and Battle” building and it was on the market for $320,000, way out of our price range.   It was the perfect home for us!   The square footage was 4,400 on two floors with windows galore.  It was modern and painted in bright colors – kid friendly colors.

 

 
 

Neighboring Big Brothers Big Sisters Agency Was Failing

In late 2011, the Big Brothers Big Sisters organization serving two neighboring counties was about to go out of business.  I was approached by a member of the Board of Directors indicating the agency was struggling.  

United Way Launches First Online Donation Platform

While I was the Community Relations and Public Affairs manager at IBM in Minneapolis, I was responsible for running IBM’s United Way campaign in 12 states, encompassing nearly 20,000 employees.   I understood how valuable online giving could be in terms of increasing revenues and I also knew how to promote it to employees. 

Negotiated for the Acquisition of New Office Space while

Simultaneously Building Outstanding Community Relations


 

Situation

As the newly named Executive Director of Big Brothers Big Sisters, it was obvious that the current facilities were totally inadequate for the current and future growth of BBBS.  We were a staff of eight crammed into a 2,100 square foot space in the United Way building on Main Street in downtown Midland.   There was not a single window.

It was the middle of winter, but there was one particular building that had been on the market for nearly a year.   It was known as the “Bolger and Battle” building and it was on the market for $320,000, way out of our price range.   It was the perfect home for us!   The square footage was 4,400 on two floors with windows galore.  It was modern and painted in bright colors – kid friendly colors.

Action Plan

A banker on the BBBS Board  helped me determine a mortgage amount that we could afford.   My goal was to develop a budget that would allow us to buy the building without paying more than we were already paying for rent in the United Way building, including utilities and maintenance.  That number was $250,000.  As it turned out, Greta Bolger (who owned half of the building) learned that BBBS was looking at the building.  She called me one day and said, “Let’s get together without the realtors.”

Greta and I instantly bonded.   We were two women leaders who cared about our community and wanted to make a difference in our own way. Greta liked the idea that a well-respected nonprofit like Big Brothers Big Sisters could find a new home in her building.   She called her partner and by the end of the day, the purchase price was lowered to $250,000.   Greta even convinced the realtors to lower their commission.

I still had to convince the Board of Directors of Big Brothers Big Sisters.   The numbers told most of the story, but I really wanted their full buy in.  So, we held a Board meeting at the Bolger and Battle building.   We turned up the heat and brought in tables and chairs and gave everyone a chance to feel what it would be like to make this our agency’s home.  The Board overwhelmingly approved. 

Results

By spring, we were moved in, and the Chamber of Commerce welcomed us with a ribbon cutting ceremony.    We named the building, the “Big Brothers Big Sisters Friendship Center” and Greta Bolger was one of the speakers at the ceremony.    More than 250 people attended the reception that day, and the Friendship Center was featured on the front page of our local newspaper.   Today, this building serves as the regional headquarters for Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Great Lakes Bay Region and there is plenty of room for future growth.