Founder and CEO
FRIENDS of Broomfield
Location: Broomfield, Colorado
Industry: Human Services
Sometimes you have to take a step back and set aside ego to make the right decision for the larger organization. Gina Coufal learned that lesson when she recognized the need to broaden the fundraising reach for her nonprofit, FRIENDS of Broomfield.
To execute the strategy, Coufal shifted from executive director to executive director of development and brought on an executive director of operations. It required Coufal to offload responsibilities to someone else, a challenge for any leader, especially one who founded the organization.
“It was an unusual move, but I felt it was in the best interest of the organization, and would allow me to ensure necessary fundraising support for the future,” Coufal said. “It was a humbling experience as I learned that a good leader sometimes has to make decisions and sacrifices in order to put the organization and those we serve first. When the time was right, I made the decision to return our organization to a more traditional structure, taking my place as the CEO, but continuing to support the now COO in their role. As Simon Sinek quoted, ‘Being a leader is not about being in charge, it is about taking care of people in your charge.’”
FRIENDS of Broomfield Inc. is a human service nonprofit agency providing home and community-based Medicaid services to adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The nonprofit’s programs are designed to promote the acquisition and maintenance of skills for everyday living; the growth of social networks; the establishment of natural supports, self-sufficiency and independence and to encourage contribution to the larger community.
Coufal’s passion for working with those with disabilities spanned from an early age through college, where she eventually became an interpreter for the deaf. Coufal also became the young mother of her first child, who suffered serious health complications resulting in profound disabilities at the age of six months. As her son Joshua grew, she recognized there were few organized recreation opportunities for him. In 1998, with Coufal’s help, a grassroots parent network began, with the goal of providing advocacy, education, support, and recreational opportunities for this population in the community where there had been none before. It would be called FRIENDS — which stands for fun, recreation, inclusive experiences, networking and discovering the spirit — of Broomfield.
Coufal and FRIENDS launched the first Special Olympics program in Broomfield and inspired city leaders to add a therapeutic recreation department. As Joshua aged out of the school system, Coufal worried about what her son’s life would look like after he left the daily support of the classroom. She knew options for students transitioning into adulthood were limited, so she created a program that would allow him and others like him to have opportunities to live fulfilling lives and work on skills for independence.
“I believe the work we do empowers those with intellectual and developmental disabilities to see themselves as capable equals who can shine if afforded every opportunity granted to the rest of us,” Coufal said.
Coufal took a need and an idea and sparked real change in her community by establishing an agency of services for one of the most vulnerable populations in the community, her staff said. Today that organization is thriving and changing lives.
FRIENDS has grown from a small nonprofit organization with a budget of $4,400 to a thriving agency with a 2022 budget of $3.5 million. Its Day Program opened in 2005 with five participants and today has served over 350. FRIENDS has 188 daily enrollments and over 100 drop-ins across all its programs. FRIENDS Supported Employment Program serves almost 50 individuals and has a success rate showing 90% of participants in paid jobs in the community.
“There are no sparkly honors or awards for doing the work Gina has done,” her staff said. “She works with quiet humility to be sure the community and this special population are advocated for and get the supports they need to live happy fulfilling lives as independently as possible.”
"The work we do empowers those with intellectual and developmental disabilities to see themselves as capable equals who can shine if afforded every opportunity granted to the rest of us."