Monday, May 09, 2011

Trevor Project's Former ED
Speaks to the NonProfit Times

One-month back, Charles Robbins suddenly announced he was resigning as executive director of the Trevor Project and as far as I know there's been no follow-up in the gay press or gay blogosphere about the resignation. Last week I searched for any news stories mentioning the project and Robbins, and was pleasantly surprised to learn he spoke with Samuel J. Fanburg of the NonProfit Times:

When Charles Robbins assumed the role of executive director of The Trevor Project in West Hollywood, Calif., four years ago he was alarmed by what he described as the organization's "West-centric" tilt. Like many lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender (LGBT) nonprofits, the Trevor Project had a constituency on the West Coast but had not moved inland. ...

"I think the reality was that we had not even scratched the surface," said Robbins, who left his post last month. "The organization only had a presence on the West coast. When we opened our New York office we were able to capture more philanthropic energy." ...

Granted, this quote does not pertain to why he resigned but it's still curious that Robbins was available to speak with this publication. I'd like for him and the Trevor Project to step forward and give a fuller explanation than what was stated at the time of his stepping down about why this abrupt resignation happened. Maybe gay papers will also chat with him, especially the ones that have given much space to the project and its work.

Since the NonProfit Times piece didn't address a slew of my concerns - why Robbins left, what the project now says about the change at the top, and the claim in Robbins' bio that the project's annual revenue stream equaled $4 million, a fact not borne out in their IRS 990 filings - I reached out to reporter Samuel Fanburg. His reply:

I had pressed the Trevor Project on the reasons for Robbins leaving and they assured me it was because of no nefarious activities. But officially they only had no comment on him leaving and that he had gone on to pursue other ventures.

As for the $4 million revenue, I was confused about that first as well considering how much money they took in from their IRS filings, but they said this was a number that was projected over the next few years, meaning in 2016 they'd have a $4 million budget.

If a staff writer at the NonProfit Times is confused about the wildly divergent claims of the Trevor Project folks regarding their yearly budget, versus what's reported to the IRS, imagine what the average reader or donor must think. According to the latest 990 for the project, revenue was listed at $1.3 million in 2009 and $1.4 million in 2010.

There's absolutely no indication anything nefarious is afoot at the Trevor Project, which is a very healthy thing. However, the lack of additional info from the project about the executive shake up, any search to replace Robbins, and the use of very optimistic projected revenue a few years down the road call out for more scrutiny.

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