As executive director of SCO Family of Services, Gail B. Nayowith, 56, supervises thousands of employees, all dedicated to serving Long Island, Brooklyn and Queens residents who are poor, vulnerable or disabled. And the need is growing.
The number of Island children living in poverty increased 8 percent from 2005 to 2010, she said. As SCO spends only 7 cents of each dollar on administrative costs, Nayowith said, she has streamlined the process of working with the government and encouraging corporate involvement.
With "corporate social responsibility" becoming a buzzword, have you seen an uptick in corporate involvement?
Corporations with whom we are engaged are making a deeper and deeper commitment to the work. What might start out as a single-day project grows and evolves into much more than that . . . You can make a community by doing shared work in the place where you live or with a population of people who are vulnerable. That kind of team building makes a company more attractive to work in . . . deeper than just what takes place 9 to 5 in the office. They have a shared set of interests and commitment that I think is very valuable to any business. It [also] gets the word out about [the company's] pro-social activities.
What are some tips on working with government?
Data matters. You have to measure your performance against some kind of a standard. You can't say to government, "We're really great, and we do all this great work." We have to be able to say, "This is the problem. This is the scope of the problem. This is how an intervention can make a difference, and here's how you measure it." The other pieces are accountability, reliability, integrity and transparency. You have to be all of who you say you are to the government . . . deliver good quality and at a good price [with] public documentation of your work, of your expenditures.
What are some repercussions you're seeing from the economy?
We are seeing a significant increase in the number of homeless families with children under 18. The supply of services has not grown to meet the demand . . . we have a finite capacity to respond to people. It's not like the government has provided tremendous amounts of new money to expand program availability. It's just that more people are knocking on the door looking for help.
What's something you've been able to change about government policy?
Bringing juvenile delinquents home from upstate detention facilities. We started a program in the last year, two small group homes, where we were bringing young people who were in trouble with the law, court involved, back into the community safely to re-engage with family and community.
Name. Gail B. Nayowith, executive director, SCO Family of Services, Glen Cove
What it does. Help vulnerable New Yorkers build a strong foundation for the future: get children off to a good start, strengthen families and help those with special needs. Serve 60,000 people in high-need communities, including Brentwood on Long Island.
Employees. 2,420 full time; on Long Island, 848 full time, 585 part time.
Roles. Caseworkers, social workers and child-care workers, maintenance people, financial management.
Revenue. $240 million.