Lots of business leaders recruit celebrities to help nonprofits, but few have had the impact Tupperware chief executive Rick Goings has had at Boys & Girls Club of America.
For more than 20 years, he has helped lift the profile of the decades-old after school program, and one of his key “gets” came in 1992 when he was sitting in Café des Artistes in midtown Manhattan, waiting the arrival of actor Denzel Washington.
“We knew Denzel had mentioned [the club] in an interview before,” Goings said, “but we didn’t know how passionate he was.”
Very, it turned out. Washington not only agreed to help out, he spent 20 minutes recalling his days as a club member doing skits such as “Flatman and Robin,” a riff on Batman and Robin.
“To hear someone of his stature talk about the first time he ever acted was like magic,” said Evan McElroy, Boys and Girls Clubs of America spokesman, who also attended the meeting.
In 1990, while Goings was president of Avon Products, he was approached by Hayes Clark — the grandson of Avon founder David H. McConnell — to help re-brand the organization, which was known for keeping boys off the streets, but had recently begun offering programs for girls.
“The first thing I did was to see if this was something I could put my arms around,” Goings said. He visited the Kips Bay Boys and Girls Club in the Bronx. “I walked out and said, ‘Oh, my God,’ ” Goings said. “In a neighborhood with the highest level of teen pregnancy and gang membership was this haven.”
Goings immediately joined the board of Boys and Girls Clubs of America and assembled a marketing team. They changed the slogan from “the club that beats the streets” to “the positive place for kids,” ran national advertisements and secured high profile board members such as Colin Powell.
Since then, the organization has grown from 2,000 to 4,000 clubs that serve 4 million youth. It also grew from $1.8 million in corporate support to $43.4 million in 2010. It now has 40 corporate partners including Coca Cola, Comcast and Microsoft. Celebrities that advocate for the organization include former Army Gen. Wesley K. Clark; John Paul Jones DeJoria, co-founder of Paul Mitchell; actors Mario Lopez and Cuba Gooding Jr.; and former NBA stars Magic Johnson and Shaquille O’Neal.
The organization now has an operating budget of $1.5 billion. Twenty-five percent of revenue is from individual donors and one-third is from public funding.
Through Goings’ own Rick and Susan Goings Foundation and with Tupperware corporate support, he has financed the opening of clubs in Tijuana, South Africa and Orlando, near Tupperware’s headquarters.
Tupperware gave $500,000 in scholarships to Boys and Girls Clubs for its national Youth of the Year competition, which honors high achieving students that have overcome hardship.
Goings’ recruitment of Denzel Washington is still paying dividends. Nearly a hundred supporters packed the ballroom of the National Press Club last week at an event that announced the national Youth of the Year winner and included speeches from Washington, Olympian Michael Phelps and singer Ashanti.
“You’ll never see a U-Haul behind a hearse,” he said. “Whatever you have in life or think you have acquired, you can’t take it with you. On your last day, you won’t be judged by how many cars you have, but hopefully how many people you’ve helped.”