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After another loss, JA plans for recovery

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After three years of financial losses, plus turmoil among its leaders, Junior Achievement of Central Indiana unveiled a recovery plan at its annual meeting Thursday that includes a fundraiser led by Myra Borshoff Cook, head of the state's largest public relations firm.

"Individually and collectively, we can polish up this brand and make it stronger than ever," Cook said during a pep talk for the board of directors. Cook, principal of Indianapolis-based Borshoff, is leading a fundraising committee of business leaders whom Junior Achievement has recognized with its Hall of Fame awards.

CEO Jennifer Burk said the extra fundraising, plus a host of other efforts, will put the organization in the black for the 2011 fiscal year, which ends June 30. "We just are digging out of a hole and we've made progress in doing that, but it's been a rough spell," she said.

JA is counting on personal donations from each member of its board of directors to land a major challenge grant from an anonymous donor. Burk declined to disclose the amount of that grant. She said 70 percent of the board already has made commitments.

The new board chairman is Harry Danz, a partner with That's Good HR.

The overall fundraising effort may get a boost with the hiring of a full-time development officer, Alyssa Krachon, who came from JA of Chicago.

The 2010 fiscal year that ended June 30 was the third consecutive year in the red for JA. It reported a deficit of $389,000. That was smaller than the prior year's gap of $540,000. Burk said the 2009 deficit was mitigated by multi-year sponsorships, for which revenue was counted in one year.

The not-for-profit ended 2008 with a $396,000 deficit, according to its federal income statement for that year.

Burk said the 2011 budget is still in development. The prior year's budget was about $2 million.

Junior Achievement has financed its losses with a $1 million line of credit, which Old National Bank recently agreed to convert to a term loan. Another financial liability was the organization's guarantee of $6.2 million in real estate debt for the headquarters building at 7435 N. Keystone Ave. The Experiential Learning and Entrepreneurship Foundation, which owns the building and supported JA operations, has released JA from that guarantee.

The annual meeting on Thursday took place inside BizTown, the simulator that fifth-graders visit after six weeks of classroom work. BizTown continues to be JA's biggest draw, with more than 10,000 of the roughly 17,500 children who took part in JA programs last year spending a day in BizTown's brightly colored storefronts, offices and city hall.

Burk, a former Duke Realty executive who was a longtime JA board member, became CEO on July 1, 2009, after Jeffrey Miller retired in 2008. The organization's financial struggles came to light late last year, after the Central Indiana Community Foundation stopped payment on a grant for construction of an addition to the JA building.

CICF's Glick Fund ultimately pulled back the grant because it was being processed by the Experiential Learning and Entrepreneurship Foundation. Miller, who led both JA and the foundation, is pursuing defamation lawsuits against JA, Burk, CICF and its president, Brian Payne.

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