The Better Business Bureau hasn't exactly made life easy for the Bowling Green Pregnancy Center in recent months - not since the agency publicly assigned the local pregnancy center an "F" grade for accountability in its most recent Giving Guide.
|Audrey Davidson (back) and Sherrie Robinson (front), volunteers at the BG Pregnancy Center in Bowling Green, Ohio, are seen working at a computer. (Photo: Enoch Wu/Sentinel-Tribune)
That ranking, although since rescinded, has cost the pregnancy center in several ways, confirms Executive Director Lynette Worthy. The center saw both decreased monetary donations and attendance numbers at its 2013 "Answering the Call" annual banquet, held March 7 at Bowling Green State University.
The pregnancy center had raised only $39,123 at this year's banquet compared to $64,000 at last year's event, although "we're at a little over $47,000 right now," Worthy said this week, with the addition of further pledges in the last two weeks.
This year's banquet had about 240 attendees, compared to 330 last year.
Christina Sloan, the pregnancy center's director of advancement, nevertheless feels "the banquet went well.
We did have less people there, but the people present were more generous" than in 2012. "$75,000 was our (fundraising) goal this time around so we're still under goal," but the continued flow of new donations is encouraging.
Bowling Green Pregnancy Center chairman Mike Manahan received a letter from the BBB dated Feb. 4 which explains how the "F" ranking came about and stated that the BBB has now replaced that F with a "B" grade.
"As of March 4, 2013, the BBB is happy to report that we've reevaluated the Pregnancy Center using their most recent information and have concluded that the organization meets most of our charitable standards, earning an interim 'B' letter grade rating," BBB president Richard Eppstein wrote.
Eppstein explained that in 2010 the BG Pregnancy Center was evaluated by the BBB "using its 20 Standards for Charitable Accountability," which the agency applies nationwide to all soliciting charities.
Those standards require that the charitable organization spends at least 65 percent of its total expenses on program activities. BGPC spent $137,247, or 78 percent, of its $173,973 expenses for 2012 on program activities, banquet attendees were told.
At the same time, the BBB requires that the charity spend no more than 35 percent of contributions on fundraising. BGPC staff say they spent $24,459, which is 13.41 percent of a total of $182,442 in contributions
"In preparation for the BBB's most recent Charity Giving Guide, the BBB attempted to contact the Bowling Green Pregnancy Center for an updated report, but due to the transition of executive directors at the Center, the mailing was likely lost in the shuffle and the BBB was unable to give a new report," Eppstein's letter explained. "When the BBB doesn't hear back from a charity it typically results in the organization being listed as 'Failure to Disclose'. Unfortunately, due to a composition error by our publication designer, the outdated report reviewing the Bowling Green Pregnancy Center as an "F" charity was erroneously listed in the Giving Guide, instead of 'Failure to Disclose'."
A correction sticker is being applied to all Giving Guides the BBB distributes from here on out.
"We're currently working with the BBB" to bring the B ranking up even higher in next year's guide, Worthy noted.
"The thing that stopped us from getting an A+ rating was some questions about our accounting records," she added, emphasizing that the center plans to give the Better Business Bureau what it's asking for next time around.
"We will be working with them this year to get our finances into more of the format the BBB is looking for. They felt a professional audit was what was missing."
As a matter of fact, said Worthy, "we had been talking about doing audits because that is something that will help us, but before this year, as a charity of our size we had not been in a position to really consider that as an option."
In addition to self-audits, the agency has other goals for the coming year, starting with client outreach.
"We've been in the community since 1985 and when we originally stated our mission was to be a Christian answer to unplanned pregnancy in this area. We want to ask what that looks like in 2013," Worthy said.
The answer the board and center staff have come up with is "a place to go where (women) would not be judged.
"We want to lead with the foot," which means "with our medical services - free pregnancy tests and free ultrasounds."
During 2012 a total of 136 pregnancy tests were performed at the center, and 30 ultrasounds were done in just a three-month period, triple the number for all of 2011.
"We believe the women in our community deserve to be able to make a choice without it being tied to money."
Developing a higher profile is another major goal.
"We can't be of service where women don't know we are here. We compete daily. Women are inundated with so much information from a variety of sources," Worthy acknowledged.
"When a woman comes to see us, the main thing that is driving her actions is fear." Center staff want women in crisis who come to BGPC to walk away saying to themselves "Wow, there's more help out there than I thought," said Worthy. "That's the reason we do what we do. Our passion is to see women's fear transformed into hope."