What’s More Important Than Changing a Young Person’s Life?

Nonprofits know that supporters come and go for various reasons. The treasured rarity is the supporter who comes and stays — for decades. In Tom Allen’s case, he got involved with Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Richmond in the early 1970s and never left.

Tom was introduced to the Boys Club, as it was then known, by his Richmond neighbor, Joe Stettinius, in the early 1970s. “Joe’s passion for what was going on at the Boys Club was contagious,” Tom says. “He told me about their achievements and the difference they had made in the city of Richmond, and I was intrigued.”

Tom had grown up in Richmond and then went to work in New York City for several years, where he worked at Booz Allen Hamilton. When he returned to Richmond to work at his father-in-law’s business, East Coast Oil, he sought ways to get more deeply connected to the city he loved. The message of what the Boys Club was doing in Richmond resonated with Tom.

 An early rendering of the Robinson Street Club, for its capital campaign.

An early rendering of the Robinson Street Club, for its capital campaign.

In a short matter of time, he got involved and joined the board. During that period, the Robinson Street Club was the central hub of the organization. It featured an indoor swimming pool and space to study and play and remained a hive of activity. In the summer, Tom recalls, boys from other metro Richmond Clubs were transported to enjoy the pool at the Robinson Street Club and use its excellent facilities.

In 1992, when the Boys Club of America became the Boys & Girls Clubs of America and welcomed girls into the Clubs, Tom continued to faithfully serve, holding roles on the board and other committees. He has served as chair of the board and also chaired the Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Richmond Foundation, shepherding planned giving and developing a strategy for the long-term financial health of the organization.

“Anyone who has been fortunate to have some measure of means should feel some obligation to give back. There are lots of opportunities to do so, but what better way to give back than to help our city’s children? Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Richmond does such a great job,” he says. “They’re not trying to reach the people who are in trouble; they’re shaping the lives of very young people when it can be done.”

“If someone came along and said, ‘Would you like to move?’ I’d say, ‘Are you kidding me? No way! I love Richmond.’” — Tom Allen

Over the years, he has witnessed growth in the depth and breadth of programs at Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Richmond. Going far beyond a typical after-school experience, the Clubs have committed to giving Club members opportunities for academic success and career and college readiness.

Tom also says that the longevity and faithfulness of the staff plays a large part in the success of Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Richmond over its more than 65-year history. “I’m very proud of the staff. One way to look at the success of an organization is to see what kind of turnover they have. As you can imagine, the directors of the Clubs and other staff members are not drawing big salaries, but the tenure of the staff is staggering,” he says. “With some exceptions, of course, most of the staff has been with the organization for a long time. This tells you so much about their commitment and expertise — and their knowledge that they’re making a significant difference.”

Watching Richmond grow and flourish alongside the Clubs refreshes Tom’s long-term commitment to his hometown and the city’s young people. “Richmond is the right size, we’re well-located, and we have a committed group of for-profit and nonprofit organizations,” he says. “If someone came along and said, ‘Would you like to move?’ I’d say, ‘Are you kidding me? No way! I love Richmond.’”

 Tom Allen, long-term supporter of Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Richmond.

Tom Allen, long-term supporter of Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Richmond.

Tom co-chaired Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Richmond’s recent capital campaign, Create New Statistics, with Austin Brockenbrough III, raising support for the development of the organization’s new Teen Center. “Most individuals who have the desire to make philanthropic gifts and the means to do so are attractive to organizations with big development offices. An organization like Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Richmond, however, is very streamlined. It’s not a big office,” he says. “The fact that we raised just under $25 million with the modest staff that BGCMR has is simply staggering.”

As the plans for the construction of the new Teen Center in the East End are under way, Tom is excited about the ways that this development will benefit the area’s young people. He has seen Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Richmond apply renewed focus to programs that help teenagers throughout metro Richmond, including Ready2Win, among others. Now, he says, there are more targeted and well-developed opportunities to help teens acquire the skills they need to succeed in life, whether through careers or college. “Things happen in the teen years, and it’s so important to maintain strong relationships,” he says. “The Teen Center is certainly in the right location to do this. It’s going to make a real difference to a group of young people who have been ignored for too long. It’s an exciting project, and I can’t wait to see the ground broken and have it become a reality.”

Tom and his wife, Elizabeth, also hosted an event in the spring to honor the group of donors who have made legacy gifts to Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Richmond. In a nod to the organization’s history, the group was named the Robinson Street Club. It aims to encourage planned and deferred giving among supporters, creating a heritage of philanthropy to sustain Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Richmond’s work long into the future.

“What’s more important than changing a young person’s life and the trajectory of where they will be when they grow older?” — Tom Allen

“An organization that can focus on deferred giving and make it an important piece of development shows how strong they are,” he says. “The fact that Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Richmond is doing this and doing it well is a very, very good sign. I’m happy to be involved in that effort.”

To his mind, estate planning and deferred giving are a particularly important way to enhance an organization in the present and ensure its health well into the future. He has planned for a legacy gift to the organization himself and encourages other like-minded supporters to consider making a similar commitment.

“If I had a message for someone who had a desire to make a difference in Richmond, I’d say, ‘Yes, you’re being solicited by your college and maybe your graduate school and other organizations that have huge development offices. But stand back a moment and study the landscape. Who’s really making a difference? Who’s changing lives?’ You may not hear from Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Richmond as much as you do from other nonprofits, but you have to rely on intuitive judgment,” he says. “What are the really important things that can change lives for the better? What’s more important than changing a young person’s life and the trajectory of where they will be when they grow older?”

Planned giving is a powerful way to build a legacy of philanthropy. We’d love to answer any questions you may have about setting up a lifetime gift to Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Richmond. Call David LeFebvre, director of development, to learn more: (804) 359-5250 ext. 244.