Helping others has always been at the heart of Robert Malone’s career in leadership, and that focus will become a mission as he takes on his newest role: chief business development officer at Volunteers of America Chesapeake.
“The ability to do what I love and be able to help and care about others is really a blessing,” Malone said.
Malone, 41, comes to the Lanham nonprofit, part of a national health and social services organization, with a diverse background in marketing, managing and underwriting. He most recently led international trade operations at M&T Bank in Baltimore, following his efforts in leading an expansion of the nonprofit banking division of M&T out of Washington, D.C.
“When I started at M&T, you couldn’t say they had a strong brand in the Montgomery County area. It’s the same here at Volunteers of America. There’s some people that think this is a [President] Obama program or a volunteer corps,” Malone said.
Through networking, site visits and partnerships, M&T was able to establish a strong presence in Montgomery, he said.
Volunteers of America tapped Malone to use the same techniques to improve its brand. Executives created Malone’s position through combining its former vice president of development and external affairs role with the new task of assisting COO Franklyn D. Baker elevate the quality and innovation of its programs, Baker said.
The nonprofit offers programs such as affordable housing and rehabilitation services for substance abusers, the mentally ill and others with disabilities. Volunteers of America Chesapeake serves 10,000 people in the Washington region and has 2,000 volunteers.
The individual budgets of its 25-plus programs range from $300,000 to $3 million. The nonprofit received about $22 million from the government and $350,000 through foundations and other donors in 2010, according to its most recent federal tax return.
Malone is “about looking under the hood more carefully to evaluate where we can catapult efficiency to the next level,” Baker said, adding that Malone’s leadership management experience gives him an advantage when negotiating with strategic partners.
Malone is in charge of not only finding more fundraising avenues, but layering services within the group’s programs.
“Many times people don’t think of homeless and children in the same bundle. You need to have services so they’re developing properly,” Malone said, referring to education supportive services.
But to stack services, the nonprofit needs money, bringing Malone to his next task: marketing.
“Keeping up the number of funding relationships is tough since the government doesn’t raise its support as the years go by. What we receive is insufficient for our homeless services,” he said.
Volunteers of America needs to help people understand its line of work to improve its fundraising, he said.
“There’s a lot of work that goes into creating a brand. You have to invite folks to your site and let them see what you do. Or sometimes we post short success stories on Facebook,” Malone said.
That includes the one about a man who lost his government job due to drug abuse, but was able to reconnect with his wife and find a new job through Volunteers of America, Malone said.
Malone said the nonprofit must strengthen its Facebook follower base for it to be an effective marketing tool and also must increase its site tours for donors and community leaders. The nonprofit has 20 tours planned for this year, compared with its usual one to two, he said.
Malone also is steering Volunteers of America in partnering with Walk for the Homeless this fall.
As equally valuable as Malone’s management skills are the transactional skills he picked up throughout his career, Baker said.
“He’s had vast exposure to quality insurance goals and innovation in his other roles,” he said.
Before his stint at M&T, Malone worked for an insurance underwriting business for three years, including when he still was attending Howard University. He described the job as an experience that allowed him to meet with corporate level executives and familiarize himself with the business and nonprofit community.
“I got to do a lot of financial statement review and compare organizational trends,” Malone said.
Malone then worked for GE Global Exchange Services, which provides management services for companies, for eight-plus years. He said GE taught him about using cost take-out strategies to streamline printing and distribution management. He later ended up partnering with Xerox to save $600,000 per year for the company.
“I learned that everything is quantifiable and became very measurable results-oriented,” Malone said.
After graduating from the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business, Malone joined M&T for seven years, eventually moving into the sales and marketing field.
He also served as a Marine in Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm during the Gulf War in the 1990s.
Following his time in the private sector, Malone wanted to move into the nonprofit world, he said, adding that Volunteers of America was the “perfect fit” with its self-described Christian-based values.
“It’s not just something in a document. It’s part of who were and how we deliver our services. We’re helping folks have hope,” he said.
Malone already had one foot in the nonprofit world through his founding of Mentoring to Manhood in 2005. The Upper Marlboro nonprofit helps boys 12 through 18 build life skills through social activities and mentoring speakers. It serves 60 boys annually.
“Robert is able to lead, which I think is huge. He has the ability to bring people to the table who may not necessarily agree and bring them to a common ground,” said Therman Evans, board chairman of Mentoring to Manhood and a friend who met Malone in college 20 years ago.
“He understands people and has this ability to see through barriers,” Evans said. “He wants to do a lot for people. Robert treats this like another full-time job.”