Making changes Featured

7:00pm EDT December 26, 2009

Charles W. Gehring arrived at LifeCare Alliance in 2001 with his back against a wall. The organization was facing a decrease in revenue, a financial deficit, a client list too big to efficiently serve and a culture that couldn’t accept change.

With Gehring’s guidance, the organization, mainly known for its Meals-on-Wheels program, has not only seen stability but also growth. It is through several factors, such as corporate growth, social entrepreneurship and valuing employees that Gehring has made the organization one of the largest nonprofits in the area today.

Presented with the organization’s need to find resources to serve its growing client base and also increase its revenue, Gehring started three new initiatives and successfully completed mergers with two nonprofit organizations. At the time, social entrepreneurship efforts and nonprofit mergers were still future trends. Now, Gehring, who coordinated much of the mergers and garnered support from his board, is asked by other local nonprofit organizations to assist in their consideration of mergers.

His willingness to take calculated risks once again has taken the organization down the path of acquisitions.

Also in way of the organization’s growth, LifeCare Alliance launched a five-year capital campaign in 2006 to raise $5 million. Gehring’s leadership led LifeCare Alliance to reach its goal in two years, and then raise the goal to $6.5 million, which it has surpassed.

In order to continue to see success, Gehring knew more needed to be seen with employee retention. By changing the organization’s culture and modernizing its hiring, retention and evaluation process, Gehring reduced the high employee turnover rate that the food service industry tends to see from 70 percent to less than 20 percent.

His steps in turning the culture around included overhauling the employee annual review process, which means he now reads the evaluations of all 250 employees. He instituted a management incentive plan. He began biannual meetings to update employees on the agency, along with employee events, which allows the staff five times a year to engage in fun and fellowship.

In an effort to drive home LifeCare Alliance’s mission, Gehring implemented a corporate Meals-on-Wheels route. Each weekday, two staff members are paired together to deliver meals.

How to reach: LifeCare Alliance, (614) 278-3141 or www.lifecarealliance.org