Finding Our Way Through a New Landscape
“Sometimes the hard thing and the right thing are the same thing.” -Unknown
I wanted to take a few moments to update you – our campers, guests, alumni, and donors – on some recent challenges and resulting decisions impacting Calvin Crest. As many of you know, Calvin Crest has been struggling on many fronts for the past few years. The week before I officially started on staff in January of 2019, the board and I discovered that Calvin Crest was in a pretty significant financial crisis. Some decisions were made prior to my start to let some staff go and move key positions around.
As my first few months progressed, our newly appointed treasurer, Ginny Harrison, and I worked to unravel the finances of the past year and learn how we had arrived in this place. 2018 was filled with unusual circumstances like the fire, the forest stewardship project, and other rare situations that resulted in more money than usual flowing in and out of camp. Despite our best efforts in 2019 to freeze expenses and increase revenue, we realized in the fall that some drastic changes needed to happen to bring correction. We were also facing increasing minimum wage in California, which means that salaried employees will be making $30 an hour by 2022, which is simply not sustainable for a small non-profit.
At the same time, I had been visiting many other camps, consulting with Executive Directors, and comparing staff compensation. What I discovered was that we had more staff than most camps our size, our leadership staff was paid significantly higher wages, and we were providing benefits not afforded at most camps. Therefore, the difficult decisions were made in the fall to move our employees from salary to hourly and to cut back the wages of six staff members, including my husband, Cam. I was humbled by the responses of nearly all who were impacted, as they told me they understood and even believed this correction was necessary. With all the cuts we made in the fall, freezing all the expenses we could, and bringing in $10,000 more than 2018 at year end, we made up $82,000 in a matter of months, but it wasn’t enough to end the year in the black.
This winter, the board and I worked on our 2020 budget and drilled down on every single line item trying to discern where we could save money and cut expenses as well as where and how we could raise revenue. Our goal for 2020 was to create a truly balanced budget that would help us end this year in the black, bring stability, and get us to a more sustainable place. After much work, we were able to achieve a realistic budget that I believe will help turn things around in 2020. But that does not come without hard decisions.
The first hard decision we made was to cut our group health insurance. About 1/3 of our staff was on our health insurance, and in 2019, it cost the camp more than $52,500 and rates are only increasing in 2020. After making this decision, I brought up a local insurance agency from Oakhurst who met with each staff member affected to help them sign up for Covered California so they would not have any gap in their coverage. While I regret that we have to eliminate this benefit, I was relieved to hear that in almost every case, staff members are paying significantly less out of pocket for health insurance through Covered California than they were through our group plan.
The other cuts were even more difficult to announce. We decided to eliminate two positions, one in Outdoor Education and one in Buildings and Grounds. Unfortunately, we have lost some schools in Outdoor Ed this year, resulting in approximately $95,000 less Outdoor Ed revenue this year compared to last. Because numbers are also lower, we felt this team could still operate effectively with one less staff member. As a result, Juliana Rivera offered to step down from her position.
We decided to let one staff go from Buildings and Grounds because we are increasingly working on collaborating across teams. We are gaining efficiency and saving wages as we run a smaller BAGs team and bring in people from other teams to blitz on turnover days. As a result, Chris Austin’s position was eliminated. Chris responded to this news graciously and transitioned off of staff well.
Please know that I (and the board) did not make these decisions lightly. We understand that these are people’s lives, and it is not easy to say goodbye to members of our teams and community and to disrupt and change benefits like health insurance. But if Calvin Crest is going to survive – and even thrive – in the future, these tough decisions are necessary. My highest goal was to handle this entire process honorably with both the individuals impactd as well as the entire community.
As tough as these decisions have been to make and implement, I do have more hope for Calvin Crest’s financial future than I’ve had since I arrived here. These decisions were made from a place of proactive planning to be sustainable and to move ourselves out of a place of continuing crisis. The board is healthy and unified in how God is leading. The morale and health of most our staff teams have improved throughout these challenges. Our outreach to the community and partnering churches has grown significantly. Our program camps are steadily growing, and if we succeed in increasing guest group revenue as we hope, we may even build up our cash reserves once again and have some money for capital improvements. God is at work, and good things are happening despite the challenges.
You are going to be hearing more about our Spring Campaign soon, and all of the exciting projects we have planned are strategically based on increasing our revenue, which will be critical to bringing further stability to Calvin Crest. We are committed to financial responsibility and accountability, and we covet your prayers as we navigate an ever-changing landscape and seek to steward our resources the very best we can. Just as Calvin Crest has enjoyed a long, rich history of seeing God change lives, so we want to partner with Him to continue to do so for generations to come.