Since 1974, James McClelland has been President and CEO of the Goodwill Industries of Central Indiana which, with 2,500 employees and $100 million in revenue, is one of the largest of 160 Goodwill corporations in North America.
As a nonprofit leader, McClelland concentrates on projects and initiatives that add unique value in the lives of both people and communities. Involved with Goodwill for nearly his entire professional life, McClelland has seen the organization adapt. The key, he says, to its success.
Pivot Marketing: What’s the greatest service your organization provides?
James McClelland: There are things we can do that are somewhat unique, and we’re in a good position to do them. One is to provide work for people who have limited options. We have almost 3,000 employees at our organization. Fifty percent of our employees are the primary source of income for their families. That puts an enormous responsibility on us to run this organization really well.
PM: Can you tell us about The Excel Center?
JM: A second way we are adding unique value, particularly for adults, is to increase their education levels. We got involved in education eight years ago, when we opened a charter high school at the request of the Mayor. It’s been an incredible learning experience, and led us to designing a school called The Excel Center, for adults who want a diploma, not a GED. We designed this school with the life circumstances of prospective students in mind. The first Excel Center opened in August 2010, with 300 students. Six months later, we had over 2,000 people on the waiting list. We now operate five Excel Centers, with three more opening next year.
PM: What makes a nonprofit successful?
JM: Success is a function of three things. First, you must have mission-related impact. Second, financial sustainability. The third is adaptability. You have to have a culture that enables you to adapt quickly and effectively as the world around you changes and as new needs and opportunities arise. Changes in your external environment: technological, economical, demographic, political—you have to be able to adapt to these factors. The world is going to keep changing.
PM: Are there ways in which nonprofits could accomplish more, together?
JM: We have to find ways that already exist to utilize and combine our strengths. In holistic, whole-family approaches. There’s an enormous amount of data showing how poverty, low education, crime, teen pregnancy, a host of health issues are all related and reinforce each other in negative ways. We tend not to treat them as if they’re related. We have to change this.
PM: What keeps you going?
JM: Around here, we are never content with the status quo. If I ever even start feeling comfortable, the mere awareness of that fact makes me uncomfortable. I’m always looking over my shoulder. What’s coming? What am I missing? In India, they have a term for that. It’s called, “divine discontent.” I always tell myself, “Don’t get too satisfied with yourself, there’s a lot more that you need to be doing.” In my job, you can go full speed or you can stop. If you slow down, you’re doing your organization and all the people who depend on you a disservice.
PM: What are you most proud of?
JM: Every major innovation is built on what we’ve learned so we ought to be doing things that are more effective, more significant, have greater long-term impact. What I’m most proud of is how we’ve been able to adapt and evolve as the world around us has changed, over four decades. A lot of organizations, especially in the nonprofit world, have a problem with adaptability.
PM: What are some things we can do to help Goodwill Industries?
JM: Donate merchandise we can sell, shop at our stores, and tell more people about things we do other than the stores. And if they know an adult with no high school diploma who wants one, tell them about The Excel Center.