New Grants to Stabilize Nonprofits

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The plan doesn’t have a catchy name, but the New York-based Edna McConnell Clark Foundation (EMCF) hopes that a new “Growth Capital Aggregation Pilot” will show how private funds can nurture the long-term financial stability of youth-serving nonprofits.

EMCF is leading a team of investors – including the Robert Wood Johnson, Bill and Melinda Gates and Picower foundations – in a model that seeks to “invest in nonprofits in the way that the for-profit world invests in companies that are effective,” said Lori Stevens, executive director of development for Citizen Schools.

The Boston-based nonprofit is one of the three initial grant recipients under the pilot, along with Youth Villages in Memphis, Tenn., and the Nurse-Family Partnership in Denver.

The foundation committed to initial grants of $39 million among the three organizations, which will all work with the foundation’s help to leverage additional public and private funds, according to a statement by Clark CEO Nancy Roob in announcing the plan in late December. The goal is to raise $120 million in growth capital by June. “What is new about this pilot project is the explicit development and testing of a collaborative approach for raising and investing growth capital,” Roob said.

EMCF decided that focusing investments on a set of promising programs would allow groups to build on their core missions rather than satisfying the idiosyncratic missions of diverse funders, said Stevens of Citizen Schools. Just as a venture capitalist would spin off a successful company, the three organizations are expected to become financially self-sustaining by 2012.

“We’re hoping that we’ll be sustainable at that point, yes,” said Patrick Lawler, CEO of Youth Villages, which provides intensive in-home and residential services to at-risk youth. He said the $15 million from Clark, combined with another $25 million Youth Villages plans to raise, will allow it to expand capacity from 10,600 kids served in 2007 to more than 15,000 youths in 2012. The program could also expand operations beyond its current eight states and the District of Columbia, Lawler said.

Citizen Schools will build on a Clark grant of $12 million to raise up to $35 million. Stevens said the plan is to more than double the number of students served, from 3,800 in six states today to 8,000 in eight states by 2012. The organization connects citizen-teacher volunteers with low-income youth, ages 9 to 14, to develop their oral, written and other skills.

Nurse-Family Partnership plans to raise $50 million, including $12 million from Clark, to expand the number of enrolled families in the parenting-support program from 13,000 to 100,000 by 2017, according to a foundation fact sheet.

All three organizations were chosen for demonstrating results in helping low-income youth.

• In an ongoing Policy Studies Associates evaluation of Citizen Schools, students outperformed comparison-group peers on six out of seven academic measurements. In addition, alumni graduate on time from high school and go on to four-year colleges at nearly twice the rate of peers who don’t participate in the program.

• Three randomized, controlled trials of the Nurse-Family Partnership conducted over three decades showed that very low-income new mothers visited by the highly educated and experienced registered nurses were more economically self-sufficient and more likely to avoid criminal behavior.

• Youth Villages, which serves emotionally and behaviorally troubled young people from the ages of 6 through 22, uses evidence-based programs, such as Multi-Systemic Therapy, which has been shown to keep at-risk youth out of the juvenile justice and the child welfare systems.

Contact: EMCF (212) 551-9100,; Citizen Schools (617) 695-2300,; Youth Villages (901) 252-7600,; and Nurse-Family Partnership (866) 864-5226,