Behind the career: Mark Andrew McCaffrey

April 6, 2014

Mark Andrew McCaffrey

Position: Chief operating officer of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Washington, an after-school program that serves students with recreational and education programs.

Born in White Haven, England, Mark McCaffrey was the first in his family to attend college and join the military. With each stop during his 12-year Royal Air Force career, he was inspired to help the community as a volunteer. After he left military service, he eventually moved to the United States. He worked for the region’s Red Cross chapter, heading up the health and safety programs and the Capital Area Food Bank before arriving at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Washington.

What was one of your more memorable experiences when you entered the nonprofit sector after the military?

At Oxtrain, I was working to help students who dropped out of college. I’ll never forget one of my clients, who had cerebral palsy. I was helping him get a job. You could see that employers would doubt that he could work effectively for them. This one employer decided to take a chance and hire him. The manager of one of the departments went on maternity leave and never got replaced, so [the client] was pretty much running the department. Within six months, I received an invitation to his wedding. Talk about seeing an investment in someone pay off. You have to look beyond what you see at the face of it and dig down.

You’ve mentioned that you are adept at creating collaborating teams. What’s your special sauce?

I try to provide a ... culture where no idea is a bad idea. If you’re in a meeting ... I try to set the scene that everyone around the table has a voice. I tell them that this is a completely open forum. There are no right or wrong suggestions. Then I try to keep everyone focused.

Providing a collaborative environment where people can learn to trust each other is hard to do. To do that, you need to treat everyone equally. You can’t have favorites. You need to celebrate the success and in those areas that are not so successful, dig down and figure out why and help to build them up. You need to show people you know that they’re not alone.

What are some other ways you show that support?

Each morning, I go around the office and say good morning. I ask them how their family is, let them know I’m concerned about that side of their life, as well as the work side. The personal piece is a definite. I always have an open-door policy, and people chat about what’s going on in life. If you know someone is struggling, you can work with them to help alleviate some of that for them.

How is working in the nonprofit sector different than working in the private sector?

The difference is looking at that end goal. In the nonprofit sector, that end goal is the positive difference you’re making in the lives of others. In the for-profit side, the end goal is ensuring you have the customer satisfaction because you want that repeat customer. The work we do in the nonprofit field, I’m not saying it’s better or worse, but the end goal is — we are the support mechanism that in many ways helps to build their future.

What are your favorite business books?

“Good to Great and the Social Sectors” by Jim Collins.

— Interview with Vanessa Small

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