The Buckeye Ranch is up to the challenge

“If anybody is over 35 years old and has lived in Columbus for any length of time, they still call us the Buckeye Boys Ranch, which is OK with us. I just like the fact that they know us at all,” says President and CEO D. Nicholas Rees.

The Buckeye Ranch, which changed its name when it began accepting girls in 1992, follows best practices and offers cutting-edge behavioral health treatment for children — but trying to do that and make ends meet is a challenge.

“When I came to work here 15 years ago, I thought I understood what was going on at the ranch, but to be honest with you, I had no idea,” Rees says.

Rees worked in the philanthropic arm of the Kroger Co., and he sees similarities between The Buckeye Ranch and where he used to work. Both have challenges with technology and trying to hire and replace staff.

But there’s also a delicate balance between the mission and business margins, he says. You want the children and staff to come first, but if you’re not financially responsible, you can’t do it for very long.

“There’s this whole notion of trying to break even in a nonprofit, but it’s really not like that,” Rees says. “We obviously don’t make profit because we’re nonprofit, but we do sometimes have a successful year and we have reserves. And those reserves help you pay for the things that you can’t either get a donor to take care of or you don’t get reimbursed for.”

For example, The Buckeye Ranch recently replaced its phone system with its reserves.

Rees, the third leader since The Buckeye Ranch opened in 1961, has tried to add a businessperson’s viewpoint. So far, it’s been useful, but funding is always a concern.

Rees has asked Leslie Bostic, Ph.D., the first executive director and a mentor, “Was there ever a day that you did not worry about the funding?” The answer was no.

The good news is that Ohio does a pretty good job of protecting people who they consider to be in mental health, counseling and therapy — even with cutbacks that have forced other behavioral health providers across the state close, Rees says.

“We have a great track record of helping these children find success and restoring the hope that that family had,” he says.