Two things stand out as staples of Dee Anders’ modest office: a box of tissues and a wide-open door. “Anybody and everybody comes on in,” says Anders.
As CEO and executive director of the world’s second-largest Ronald McDonald House, Anders’ visitors might include volunteers, donors, business and community partners, staffers or one of the 3,000-plus families served annually by the nonprofit.
Located across the street from Nationwide Children’s Hospital, Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC) of Central Ohio provides a “home away from home” for the families of seriously ill pediatric patients as they undergo treatment. Families might stay as little as two days or as long as two years. “We get a lot of repeat visitors. When you have a child with a chronic illness, it doesn’t go away. From time to time, they might be back. You get to know them,” Anders says.
Since her 2010 promotion from development director, Anders has overseen an expansion as well as a diversification of services, all during an economic downturn. She’s been with RMHC for four years, previously serving as development director for Goodwill Columbus.
Anders is acutely aware of the mission she’s charged with executing: “When you go into my position, you really have to step it up there. You have to be totally concerned with the bottom line.”
Creativity and relationship building are her go-to tools. “I think I’m a strong relationship builder, and I’ve made that an emphasis with our staff. If you want to be successful, build relationships. Because people genuinely want to help, you just have to give them the opportunity,” she says. “Let people know what your needs are, and they’ll help you. None of us are as good as all of us.”
Anders oversees “absolutely the best team” of about 19 full-time employees. “Volunteers are so valuable to us,” she says. “We’re open 24/7 with two people here at all times. So if you do the math, we’re a small staff. We’re lean.” Volunteers log about 35,000 hours annually, the equivalent of $700,000 in labor.
Most of the estimated $100 nightly lodging cost per family is met by donations; guests of the 80-room facility are asked to pay $20 per night, but nobody is turned away.
In 2010 (the most recent data available), the nonprofit received nearly 98 percent of its $2.8 million in revenue from donations and grants. “You hear ‘no’ a lot. So you have to figure out different ways [to meet your goals]. ‘No’ can’t be ‘No.’ You have to see ‘no’ as ‘not right now,’ ” says Anders.
During the next year, Anders wants to increase the reach of a new mobile care unit, which travels throughout Central and Southeastern Ohio to meet pediatric medical needs in underserved areas. There’s also an ongoing capital campaign to add 40 rooms to the facility. So far, almost $4.9 million has been pledged toward the $6 million goal. The target: Breaking ground in June to create the largest Ronald McDonald House in the world.
“It is probably the most rewarding job somebody could have, I think. It’s the strength that [the families and patients] give you,” Anders says. “It’s amazing.”
Reprinted from the December 2012 issue of Columbus C.E.O. Copyright © Columbus C.E.O.