$1.8 Million Grant Accelerates Club’s Living Wage Initiative

Starting July 1, all Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Virginia staff will earn at least $15 per hour, thanks to a $1.8 million commitment from long-time supporter, Dorothy Batten, through the D.N. Batten Foundation.

The Club’s Living Wage Initiative will mean greater financial security for over 100 employees, more impactful outcomes for youth, and a step toward closing the income gap in the Club’s service areas. BGCCVA’s six Clubs serve Charlottesville, Albemarle, Madison, Orange, Buckingham, and Fluvanna.

Until now, the Living Wage Initiative has been an aspiration due to high front-end costs and long-term budget increases. In light of last summer’s racial reckoning and the pandemic’s economic impact, however, Boys & Girls Club leaders were determined to take action, and Dorothy Batten answered their call.

“I’m proud of the step the Boys & Girls Club is taking to address equity gaps in our communities,” says Batten. “I can’t imagine a better return on investment. The Club has a proven track record of excellent programs for youth and teens and of strategic growth over time. This Living Wage Initiative is a great example. It’s a critical step toward self-sufficiency for families. As a community, this is the kind of work it’s going to take to make us as strong as we can be.”

The Living Wage Initiative is at the heart of BGCCVA’s increased organization-wide efforts to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion. The Club’s bold step comes after months of conversations with local DEI experts. Club leadership’s decision is informed by data collected through Network2Work’s Orange Dot Report 4.0, which concludes that increasing wages is the quickest way to help individuals escape the poverty cycle. Statistics also show that low wages disproportionately impact people of color. More than 60% of Club staff are people of color, increasing the urgency to take action.

BGCCVA’s Living Wage Initiative will increase wages for at least 60 employees currently earning less than $15 per hour and improve program quality for Club members by attracting and retaining high-caliber staff. The Club’s plan will also bolster community-wide efforts to close the poverty gap in areas where over 5,300 families do not earn enough to support basic needs.

“Ms. Batten’s generosity and leadership demonstrates what it means to bring about lasting, positive change,” says BGCCVA CEO James Pierce. “It’s especially important to acknowledge the impact this will have on our members. Young people can’t be what they can’t see. This initiative tells Club staff that they’re valued and supported and sends a strong message to Club youth.”

Ms. Batten’s gift points to an even greater need for broad community support around the Club’s efforts and others like it. While her gift positions the Club to accelerate to a July 1, 2021 start date, additional funding will be needed to cover the five-year incremental cost of $2.5 million. The Club will integrate the Living Wage Initiative into its annual fundraising plan, with a goal of fully sustaining the program by 2026.

“I can’t express enough the gratitude we have for Dorothy Batten and her transformational support that is making this possible,” says BGCCVA Board President Liza Borches. “As an employer, I’ve seen first-hand how reducing financial stress on staff means they can be more focused and more willing to see a job as a career. The Living Wage Initiative will also reduce staff turnover so that Club members can benefit from longer adult mentoring relationships.”

“Our board is 100% behind this effort. I’m proud to serve an organization that is doing the right thing by taking care of its people.”