NAACP Will Cut Staffing, Close Offices

By Darryl Fears
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, June 8, 2007

In an attempt to overcome years of budget shortfalls, the NAACP announced that it will temporarily close its regional offices and cut its national staff by 40 percent.

Dennis C. Hayes, the interim president and chief executive, said the organization will use layoffs and attrition to reduce its staff to 70 from the current 119. The seven regional offices will be cut. On its Web site, the group lists offices in Atlanta, Detroit, Los Angeles and New York, among others.

The announcement came weeks after the organization revealed that it has delayed plans to move its headquarters from Baltimore to Washington, and three months after the organization's president, Bruce S. Gordon, abruptly resigned over sharp conflicts with the executive board and Chairman Julian Bond.

"It's tragic," Gordon said of the staff reduction in a telephone interview yesterday. Many members of the group's public policy team, which monitors civil rights issues, will be cut. "They are the talent. They are all leaving," he said.

Gordon and the board clashed over the organization's direction and fundraising strategy. He wanted to change its focus to social services, but the board wanted to focus solely on social justice.

After the resignation, board members suggested that Gordon, a former telecommunications executive who was selected for his knowledge of boardrooms and corporate giving, did not reach fundraising goals. Some also suggested that his sudden departure signaled to donors that the NAACP was in trouble.

Bond could not be reached for a comment yesterday, but he has criticized Gordon in recent months as wrongheaded for trying to redirect the NAACP and irresponsible for making negative comments when he departed.

"It's completely unfair," Gordon said of the comments. "I worked very hard to take the high road. The story is that for going on 98 years the NAACP has been the leading representative for African Americans.

"In order to stay on that path, it needs to be healthy. It is not healthy. When I arrived, it was not healthy. I am disappointed that I didn't accomplish all the goals I set out to accomplish."

Two years ago, the NAACP, the nation's oldest civil rights organization, had a budget shortfall of nearly $5 million. Corporate donations and membership have dwindled.

In 2004, the group said it had half a million members and associates, a number that had not grown since the end of World War II. A year later, the number had fallen to 300,000. Gordon said it rose to 400,000 during his 19-month tenure.

© 2007 The Washington Post Company