by Bill Habicht
I was stunned to read the Sacramento Business Journal’s investigative reporting last week on the recent firing of Yolo Food Bank’s highly-regarded Executive Director Michael Bisch (see full article further below). The fact that the Food Bank’s impressive upward performance trajectory was ongoing at the time of Michael’s dismissal makes the Food Bank Board of Directors’ decision even more confounding.
I have worked with Michael on many community projects and initiatives, including a period as a consultant to the Food Bank in early 2018 as he led the organization from the brink of insolvency to the nimble, innovative, and impactful nonprofit that we now know and respect, and that so many of our neighbors rely upon for food security. Much of the Sacramento Business Journal’s excellent reporting resonated with my own firsthand experiences of Michael’s impact at Yolo Food Bank.
While the article did a terrific job of covering Michael’s business and financial acumen, I think some readers will be surprised to learn that his brand of leadership has a very different focus. It is grounded in advancing the Common Good, developing organizational culture and values, team building, and fostering transparency and trust. All critical for a values-based organization! Michael’s focus, in turn, yields highly-motivated staff members and a community willing to invest both time and dollars in addressing daunting challenges, such as food insecurity and poverty.
It is therefore, no surprise that the Food Bank clashed with county and city officials. There is very little alignment between the organization’s mission, culture, and values and those of local government. I’m dismayed and disheartened by the YFB board’s decision. I believe it has resulted in a breach of public trust, organizational values and mission. When these rare situations arise, I tend to look first and foremost at the response of staff… those who work in an organization day-in and day-out. And this is where my greatest concern lies. When employees write a letter of no-confidence in the board, it raises serious questions, to be honest.
It’s not clear to me how this Yolo Food Bank board overcomes the leadership and trust crisis that it has instigated. It seems appropriate, as well as ethically faithful to YFB recipients and donors, to request a fully transparent, impartial investigation at this point in time. The Yolo Food Bank is critical to the well-being of literally thousands. For the sake of loving our neighbors and the integrity of a critical organization to the region, an impartial investigation seems quite appropriate.
Bill Habicht is a former Associate Pastor of a local Davis congregation, a founding member of the Interfaith Rotating Winter Shelter of Davis, founding member of Pathways to Employment, co-founder of Radiate Art Collective, co-founder of JumpStart Davis, and cofounder of the Pollinate Davis Coworking Space
Sacramento Business Journal
By Emily Hamann
July 8, 2022
How tensions with elected officials led to the ouster of Yolo Food Bank leader Michael Bisch
When Michael Bisch was hired as the Yolo Food Bank’s executive director in 2018, the organization was in trouble.
“The first time somebody handed me a financial statement, which was my first day, I immediately realized that the financial situation at the food bank was severe,” he said.
As he recounts it, the food bank was three months from not being able to make its payroll or rent.
Bisch got to work rebuilding the leadership team and transforming the food bank’s finances. A year later, the food bank had $1 million in reserves. Since then, the food bank’s annual budget has tripled.
In May it completed its most successful fundraising campaign ever in the Sacramento region’s Big Day of Giving, raising $367,176.
Then on May 31, Bisch got a text message. He was fired.
To read the full article go here…(paywall warning).