Generation Teach: Bringing together a love of teaching and a passion for accounting
Silicon Valley. Behind pristine walls of steel and glass, the greatest minds in the US work feverishly on AI. In the same zip code, blocks away but worlds apart, thousands of kids live on the verge of homelessness.
“It’s a valley split in two,” said Steve Wymer, President and CEO of Boys & Girls Clubs of Silicon Valley. “There are people who own 2 homes, and people who need 2 jobs just to stay afloat. Those 2 sides don’t interact or understand each other very well.”
For the roughly 70,000 needy kids of Silicon Valley, Boys & Girls Clubs is working hard to change that picture. So far, they’ve reached about 3,000.
“That’s not even 5%,” Wymer noted. “Tech giants solve problems with the push of a button, but that doesn’t work with human generational challenges. You can’t solve those with a button. You solve them through deep, long-term investments in people. BILL is helping us make the investments that matter.”
Marginalized communities most impacted by COVID lock-downs
Boys & Girls Clubs of Silicon Valley offers mentoring, tutoring, group activities, and even food, all in the hope of making a long-term difference for children in their community. But the real dream is to expand into programs that bring the 2 worlds together, like summer initiatives in which kids from every background can get to know each other.
“That kind of human interaction crosses the divide,” Wymer said. “It creates real opportunities that break through barriers of race and class. We were building that dream when COVID hit. The shelter-in-place orders changed everything.”
Many of the kids in the Boys & Girls Clubs programs don’t have reliable internet, and they’re also the most likely to go hungry or even lose their home if a parent can’t work, even for a few weeks. The organization found itself scrambling to reach those 3,000 kids and assess their situation.
“At the same time,” Wymer told us, “the funding wells dried up. All of them. Private donations were down. Government contributions were down. Those kids needed us more than ever, and that takes money.”
While the operations team struggled to address urgent needs and keep vital assistance in place, the finance team hit the (virtual) ground running.
“Stretching the numbers” requires real-time cash flow visibility
“We decided right away that we weren't going to lay anyone off,” said Wymer. “We had to find the funding. There was no other option. So we applied for PPP loans. We researched emergency funding. And we dug into our reserves. Hard.”
Joining the nonprofit as president and CEO just a few months into the pandemic, Wymer was out shaking trees every day from the moment he took the job, communicating with existing donors and speaking publicly about the crisis. At the same time, he was handling constant requests from operations for emergency approvals.
“When cash flow is pressed to the limit, you need day-to-day visibility into your finances—visibility we didn’t really have,” Wymer said. “We needed to connect with each other remotely. We needed to know how far we were stretching the numbers. We needed technology that could solve those problems.”
The irony of that need wasn’t lost on him.
“Nonprofits are often reluctant to adopt new tech,” Wymer admitted. “There’s a kind of knee-jerk reaction to the whole approach because you can’t solve profound societal problems at the push of a button. But the right tech can free you to do more. BILL did that for us. When the chips were really down, BILL was a godsend.”
BILL automation helps Boys & Girls Clubs of Silicon Valley focus on their mission—not on back office administration
Boys & Girls Clubs of Silicon Valley implemented BILL in September of 2020, letting Wymer and his finance team work remotely while giving them vital insights into their day-by-day cash flow.
“Because BILL is a cloud-based platform, all I have to do is check my phone to see invoices coming in and cash going out. When I need to approve a large invoice, I can take care of it in moments, from anywhere. It’s the simplest approval process ever.”
That saved Wymer hours upon hours of time when he needed it most.
“There was no way I had time to drive all over Silicon Valley to sign checks and invoice approvals,” Wymer said. “I needed a fully baked solution that synced back with QuickBooks. BILL was that solution.”
Getting those hours back gave Wymer more time to spend fundraising, a role that was more vital than ever, but that wasn’t the only benefit.
Wymer explained, “Like most nonprofits, we can’t afford a big finance department to do—in a less efficient way—what BILL does for us automatically.”
“With BILL, our payroll funds can go to operational staff to expand our reach.
It lets us take small programs that serve a small number of people
and build a scalable platform for real, material growth.”
— Steve Wymer, CEO, Boys & Girls Clubs of Silicon Valley
Boys & Girls Clubs of Silicon Valley is growing their key metric: kids served
What does ‘‘material growth’’ mean for Boys & Girls Clubs of Silicon Valley?
“More kids,” said Wymer. “Our most important metric is ‘kids served.’ That’s how we measure success. Everything we do boils down to how many kids we can help.”
With BILL as a vital link in their operations, the nonprofit is emerging from the worst of the crisis and getting their message out there stronger than ever.
What’s next for the kids of Silicon Valley? Wymer laid out two key initiatives they have in the works: growing their offerings for teens and expanding their summer programming.
“Our goal is to expand our summer program to serve 10,000 kids from all across Silicon Valley, from private to Title 1 schools. We couldn’t do that without BILL. We would need too many heads in our back-office admin. Because of BILL, we can scale. We can run a summer program at Levi Stadium. And we don’t need to hire 6 admin people to submit invoices.”
“At the end of the day, mission work takes funding. Lots and lots of funding.
BILL gives us the freedom we need to do more fundraising, and to keep our admin lean
so we can spend that money on programs for the kids.”
— Steve Wymer, CEO, Boys & Girls Clubs of Silicon Valley
Wymer paused, then grinned.
“If I can get that freedom with the push of a button, I’ll take it.”