In 2014 alone, we granted $1.3 million and completed more than 100 projects, ranging from developing leaders to securing new revenue streams to facilitating nonprofit mergers for 80 grantee organizations. We also provided our grantees with pro-bono initiatives and game-changing services valued at more than $5 million.
Besides providing extraordinary services to people in poverty, the leaders of our grantees must manage complex nonprofit organizations. As nonprofits, budgets are tight and staffing levels are lean. Additionally, each leader needs a committed board, a transparent accounting system and motivated staff. They have to manage logistics, overhead and office arrangements.
Robin Hood and our corporate partners provide frontline resources and professional services to groups across Robin Hood’s portfolios. We deploy our internal consulting staff to lend expertise directly to a nonprofit. Other times, we recruit the best-in-class providers of professional services for our grant recipients to provide pro-bono initiatives and game-changing services. This may include helping a new agency recruit and hire staff to expand services, enlisting an accountant to streamline an organization’s financial reporting system or getting a consulting firm to design an effective website to take the message to new donors.
Robin Hood is committed to supporting our grantees as they adopt the latest in technology. In 2014, we invested $500,000 in 40 small but powerful tech upgrades. These dollars mean that small-scale organizations can build more captivating websites, establish a stronger social media presence and, most important, use data to manage and analyze the information they need to do what they do best: fight poverty.
Salesforce, one of the most effective data-management applications, is proving to be a game-changer for many of our grantees. Salesforce is a cloud-based platform used by for-profit companies to track sales and capture and analyze data on client needs, the services they provide and real-time program impact. It is affordable, user-friendly and flexible enough to adapt to an organization’s changing needs. In the past five years, Robin Hood has provided more than 30 tech grants and dedicated hundreds of hours of staff time to assist partners in building out Salesforce.
After receiving our grant to customize its software, Neighborhood Trust Financial Partners (N.T.F.P.) began using Salesforce as a platform to reach its clients more effectively. N.T.F.P. works with clients to build financial plans, adopt more productive financial behaviors and access a growing roster of products designed to encourage savings and reduce debt. Knowing that 75 percent of its clients have smartphones and 40 percent of those primarily use smartphones to access the Internet, N.T.F.P. implemented Salesforce to send text messages reminding clients of upcoming bills to pay, savings account deposits to make and other important financial steps. Clients appreciated the reminders and engaged with the software. In response, N.T.F.P. is customizing automation into the program and developing a Web portal to provide clients with 24/7 access to their personal financial action plans.
At Robin Hood, we thrive under the thoughtful and strategic leadership of our board of directors, and we strive to help our grantee partners develop informed, active and engaged boards to help guide the strategic direction of their organizations. Over the years, we have placed more than 500 board members, leveraging their time and talent for the benefit of more than 150 of Robin Hood’s grantee partners.
Beyond the obvious need for financial capital, intellectual capital is also necessary to help nonprofits navigate the complexities of running organizations and consistently delivering high-quality programs. We know how a board of directors can play a key role in providing strategic oversight and guidance, ensuring that organizations are well-run and well-positioned to provide the highest-quality services. After all, without the right people at the table, the governance and fiduciary responsibilities of the board will not be fully addressed.
Robin Hood’s board placement program helps meet this nonprofit need by introducing talented professionals with an interest in dedicating time and skills to the boards of Robin Hood grantees. It works like this: We work closely with our grantee partners to assess and prioritize their strategic board needs and develop initiatives to strengthen the performance of their boards through trainings and access to consulting support. Then we work with our candidates to find the ideal fit.
“Robin Hood’s board placement program helped me to think through and understand what I was looking for in board service,” explains Abby Westbrook, board chair at Neighbors Together. “And they worked with me to match my skills and experience with the needs of their grantees.”
Our staff sponsors and runs governance training sessions throughout the year, educating grantee partner board members about the roles and responsibilities of board service and the basics of nonprofit finances. Our team works with some of our corporate partners—including Guggenheim Partners, Maverick Capital, BlueMountain Capital, Credit Suisse and J.P. Morgan—to deliver governance-related content to their employees and clients. And we offer a robust junior board placement program, connecting young professionals with opportunities to participate in fundraising and advocacy efforts with the poverty-fighting organizations we support.
Not surprisingly, board work has proven gratifying for the volunteers. “Over the last six years, serving on Neighborhood Trust’s board of directors has been incredibly rewarding,” says Ben Appen, board chair at Neighborhood Trust Financial Partners. “I’ve been able to assist this group of super-dedicated, caring people in dramatically growing the scope and efficacy of our efforts to improve financial inclusion for poor New Yorkers. And, I feel like it’s a more meaningful example for my kids when I’m engaged personally and directly like this.”