Can The Second Mile survive this scandal?

wilted by Arne Hendriks, on FlickrOver the weekend, a friend asked me if The Second Mile had any chance of surviving. After all, it now looks like it's founder, Penn State's Jerry Sandusky, created it as a place to prey on children.

Can a nonprofit overcome this type of scandal

My first reaction was "no way." No matter what good The Second Mile has done, there's no way it can get around the fact that it serves kids and its founder is alleged to have harmed kids in the most debasing and unforgivable way possible.

You just don't get past that.

A name change wouldn't do it. You'd still have the awful history.

But then I read an article in the Chronicle of Philanthropy. The Second Mile forced it's CEO to resign. And it seems they started separating themselves from Sandusky in 2008. They specifically kept him from being around kids when an allegation surfaced in 2008. They even have a quote from an unnamed mother pleading with them to keep the services going because it has been transforming in her kid's life.

Do you think this is enough to give them a shot?

From where I sit

As an armchair quarterback, the situation seems obvious: shut the nonprofit down. If the allegations against Sandusky are true they need to totally and unequivocally disassociate themselves from him. Make a clean break with the past.

What about the good people and all the experience and knowledge they've amassed over the years? I'd say, start a new nonprofit. Take all the knowledge about the need for these services and take the best team from the wreckage of The Second Mile, and get out there and really help kids.

What about you? Would you fight to keep The Second Mile alive or scuttle the ship?

About Marc A. Pitman

Marc A. Pitman is the CEO of The Concord Leadership Group, the author of Ask Without Fear! and director of The Nonprofit Academy. A coach to leaders around the world, Marc's expertise and enthusiasm engages audiences and has caught the attention of media organizations as diverse as Al Jazeera and Fox News. Marc’s experience also includes pastoring a Vineyard church, managing a gubernatorial campaign, and teaching internet marketing and fundraising at colleges and universities. He is the husband to his best friend and the father of three amazing kids. And if you drive by him on the road, he’ll be singing 80’s tunes loud enough to embarrass his family! You can connect with him on Google+, on Twitter @marcapitman, and like "Ask Without Fear!" on Facebook.
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  1. Hi Marc,
    I say keep it alive, but only if it has positive results and impact it can tout. If they've separated themselves from Sandusky (and weren't involved in a cover-up) I would think they could salvage it. They have more name recognition now than ever and I'd look to turn the attention into positive action.

  2. Marc,

    The question I'd have is why Second Mile didn't get the police involved in 2008. If they don't have an answer to that, they should pack it up.


  3. Nathan: That is true. They do have lots of name recognition now.

    John: I'd wondered that too. Is "separating" themselves just a cover-up? Or was it really a firm statement?

  4. Marc - In either case not reporting to the police is proof that their "mission" is not sincere.

  5. Whoa there, John. I'm as opposed to what Sandusky is accused of as anyone.

    But is it a nonprofit's responsibility to report to the police rumors of incidences that happened at another organization totally separate from them?

  6. Pamela Chaney says:

    Sadly Marc - to some degree I am with John. We are not talking about co-mingling of funds or other types of crimes..these are children, disadvantaged at the onset, that were violated. If the legislature in PA alters the current law an organization such as The Second Mile would be REQUIRED to report to law enforcement. Possibly their "mission" has not been compromised - but in the end they have lost all credibility in addition to integrity?START OVER.

  7. Thanks Pam and John: I'm still not clear on what they are to report to the police.

    The allegations were all at Penn State. Think about it: if the founder of your nonprofit, the person you partnered with in doing social good, was accused of heinous crime, would you believe the accusation? And even then, would you report to the police what seems to have already been reported?

    Sorry if I'm totally missing the obvious. And I think closing the nonprofit is probably the best. Personally, other reports surfaced before 2008 so removing him then seems like too little too late.

    But could either of you help me understand what you, as the ED of the nonprofit, would put in a report to police about the founder of your nonprofit?

  8. Holy cow. Just read this post from CC Chapman.

    Sounds like Sandusky is admitting stuff that most of us would deem way off limits and wrong.

    Hindsight is 20-20. I've been around enough abusers to know they are incredibly convincing and diabolically easy to get along with. Like Saffron in the Firefly series. But still. I would hope if in a similar situation (working at a nonprofit founded by such a guy) I'd have the intuition to leave.

  9. Pamela Chaney says:

    Marc..although the unspeakable acts took place @ Penn State and elsewhere (we shall find out more during the discovery process), The Second Mile allowed him access to"groom" young children for such. There are no Penn St players alleging such conduct. The Second Mile served as the place to seek out his victims?.think about it.

  10. Pam: I get that in hindsight. I'm still unclear how they would've known that in the moment.

  11. Pamela Chaney says:

    Marc?Someone at Second Mile 'knew or should have known' about conduct unbecoming in '08 - else why would any Board or ED ask to distance from their founder? That is the standard for business and it may well be a standard that NFPs consider. "knew or should have known" by virtue of title is an actionable offense.

  12. Pamela Chaney says:

    With all due respect - check your fbook share. Tim Henderson's article mirrors my feelings rg this entire situation - and delivers the message far superior to any post which I am capable of via written word.

  13. Thanks for the comments! I forgot about Facebook today! I'll go look.

  14. Wow. Just read a sermon from Tim Henderson that included parts of the Grand Jury indictment

    I had no idea what a hornets nest I'd poked with this post.

    I hadn't realized that this wasn't just at Penn State. I think the only responsible thing to do is close the nonprofit.

  15. Pamela Chaney says:

    You're welcome?JK..

    Students can also teach professors at times?

    It happens...

  16. I'm still not sure that outright closing the nonprofit is the best answer. Similar to the Penn State situation, isn't it about who knew what, when and what did they do about it? If leadership new about it and did not completely cut him off from contact and involvement - they should step down. Then again, if they received notification from a 3rd party about a report, do they investigate themselves? Cut him off immediately and entirely? That's exactly what happened - according to their site "As The Second Mile?s CEO Jack Raykovitz testified to the Grand Jury, he was informed in 2002 by Pennsylvania State University Athletic Director Tim Curley that an individual had reported to Mr. Curley that he was uncomfortable about seeing Jerry Sandusky in the locker room shower with a youth. Mr. Curley also shared that the information had been internally reviewed and that there was no finding of wrongdoing. At no time was The Second Mile made aware of the very serious allegations contained in the Grand Jury report." It's basically 3rd party hearsay at this point.

    Then, According to statements on their website, in 2008, Sandusky self-reported to them that he was being investigated and shared there was no truth to the accusations. Even so, they then cut him off entirely from contact with children.

    If he was staff, do they fire him and risk a lawsuit if the report turns out to be a false rumor?

    All I'm saying is that closing the organization isn't fair to the board, staff and more importantly the kids they serve. The CEO has resigned and that's enough for me...I think...

  17. Yuck. The report is out and The Second Mile knew.

    Here's an article from the Chronicle of Philanthropy

    Words cannot describe my disgust.

What would you add?