Feingold Leaves UOR
The executive director of Under One Roof is leaving as the San Francisco nonprofit works to cut expenses and stay relevant.
Beth Feingold said she would stay on at the 518A Castro Street shop, which distributes money to HIV/AIDS-related charities, through June as a consultant. She said she resigned because "it’s time."
Feingold, who once volunteered at the nonprofit and joined its board in 1992, stepped into the executive director’s position on an interim, part-time basis in 2009.
In a recent interview, Feingold, board Chair Tony Hart, and board member Jennifer Kutz expressed determination to continue helping the 22 beneficiaries of the agency, which is more than 20 years old. At the next distribution, planned for June 7, they’ll be handing out just over $11,000.
The shop’s website says its mission "is to generate unrestricted funds for agencies that provide HIV/AIDS education and support services."
But most of the money from the shop, which sells T-shirts, books, and other goods, goes to pay rent and other expenses. Relatively little is distributed to its partner agencies, which, while not having to fulfill specific commitments, help spread the word about Under One Roof via social media and other activities, such as attending events.
At $16,000 a month, the annual rent alone is almost $200,000. (A former board member has been donating $5,000 a month.)
For the fiscal year that ended in February, Under One Roof distributed a total of $40,000 to its beneficiaries. That included $10,000 that a former board chair provided for two of UOR’s partners, according to Kutz.
Asked in an email exchange how much of the $10,000 dispersed in February, the last time they distributed money, came directly from store sales, Kutz said all payouts come from multiple sources, including sales from prior periods, off-site events, and donations.
She said they couldn’t say how much money came from each funding source. They don’t separate funds, and they use all funds for multiple purposes.
However, of the $11,000 they plan to distribute next month, $5,000 is from donations related to the AIDS Memorial Quilt display. Quilt panels were on display at UOR and other locations earlier this year.
Feingold, whose last day as director was in mid-May, said that the board, which has recently gained some new members, is "really strong right now" and the store is "ready to move forward."
Part of the change is expected to include cutting costs.
At $60,000, Feingold’s salary is relatively small compared to the pay of directors of most other local LGBT nonprofits. But Hart, who joined the board in January and was voted chair the next month, said that the agency may go without an executive director. The board is in the process of developing a strategic plan.
"It depends upon what we determine in our strategic plan about how we’re moving forward," Hart said of the possibility of a search for a new director. He said there is a possibility the agency could go without an executive director. They have a capable store manager, and they’ll be looking at how much staff they need, Hart said. Board members will be asked "to do a lot more," he said.
The lease, however, is a tougher challenge.
"We’ve got a long-term lease that we entered into well before any of the three of us were here," Feingold said. In a follow-up email exchange that Feingold was copied on, Kutz couldn’t say when the lease would be up.
In the interview, she said they’ve been looking at the data, and the "most financially responsible thing to do is stay here for the moment," rather than moving, changing the lease, or other options. The figures are "certainly something we think about all the time," Kutz said.
With so little money going to its partner charities and so much going just to keep the doors open, it may seem difficult to understand why Under One Roof continues to stay in business.
Asked why the shop doesn’t shut down, Hart said, "Why should it?" and said that they’re doing a lot of good work.
Feingold said, "It’s not just cash" that the shop provides. They also share volunteers and social media support, she said.
Two UOR partners contacted for this story seemed reluctant to say much about the shop.
Mike Smith, executive director of the AIDS Emergency Fund, said that the money Under One Roof has provided his agency has been "about $2,500 over the last year and a half," which is "enough money to provide grants to about five clients."
Smith declined to comment on whether he had any concerns about UOR.
Visual Aid, which produces, presents, and preserves the work of professional visual artists living with AIDS or other life threatening illnesses, is another Under One Roof beneficiary.
Julie Blankenship, Visual Aid’s executive director, didn’t respond to an interview request left with a staffer.
Shoppers who were in the store recently appeared unconcerned with how much Under One Roof spends on rent and other expenses as opposed to its nonprofit partners.
Earl Padayhag, 40, who was making his first trip to the store on a recent Sunday, said that the portion UOR distributes to partners is "probably enough."
Feingold seemed pleased with the way business has been lately.
"People are more comfortable and more relaxed and shopping more easily now," Feingold said. She added, "The tourists are back, which is wonderful."
Hart said "staying relevant" is one of their biggest challenges.
"The focus on HIV and AIDS has changed," he said. Feingold said the disease "doesn’t tug at heart strings like it used to. ... I think all our agencies are feeling that."
Hart said the board’s strategic planning sessions include looking at how to stay relevant and increasing donations. They hope to complete their planning by the end of June, he said.
Expenses are being reforecast down. "With all the savings Beth has been able to push," the shop’s "in a really good place," Hart said. But they’re hoping for more donated goods and merchandise so they don’t have to purchase as much.
Kutz said total expenses for 2011-12 aren’t yet available, and it’s too soon to project costs for the current year and they haven’t determined the organization’s annual budget for 2012-13. She did, however, provide some data.
Sales figures consist of three revenue streams: purchased merchandise, work from local artists and other consignment goods, and donated products, she said.
For March through April 2012, UOR had $107,942 in total income. Sales accounted for $75,938 of that, and $27,733 came from cash and merchandise contributions. Expenses were $73,982, according to Kutz.
In the same two-month period last year, total income was $110,410. Sales were $75,183 and contributions of cash and merchandise were $35,227. Expenses amounted to $77,330, Kutz said.
"The vast majority of most retail businesses’ revenue comes in November and December every year," she said in an email. "So the numbers we provided for March-April are the lowest you’ll see throughout the year on a month-by-month basis as a general rule."
The nonprofit doesn’t have any debt, and it has about a month and a half’s worth of reserves. There are one full time and two part time employees.
Among other efforts to draw business, Feingold has helped bring back an event where concierges from hotels around the city will tour businesses and attractions of the Castro district, including Under One Roof, to help promote the area to hotel guests this summer. This year’s tour is planned for Tuesday, June 5.
As for Feingold’s plans, she said, "I’m ready to go back to my consulting business after I take some time off." Feingold, who does small business, nonprofit, and retail consulting, said nobody asked her to leave the director’s job.
Under One Roof is seeking more new board members. Those interested may contact Hart at email@example.com.