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Six Nonprofits That Have Successfully Scaled: Hats Off!!

It was called “Scaling In Action,” but it was really about giving the best and brightest in nonprofits going to scale the opportunity to address an audience of funders at the June 14 Symposium On Scaling Social Impact, sponsored by the Social Impact Exchange.

They shone! All six presenters have worked hard and merit both accolades and support. The support they want goes beyond funding, according to moderator Suzanne Biegel, CEO of the Investors’ Circle. These nonprofits are also looking for people to serve on their national and local boards.

(Since entrepreneurs of small to mid-size businesses give more in time and money to nonprofits, I hope these six don’t forget to look close to home.)

Year Up, presented by CEO Geral Chertavian: The program closes the opportunity divide for low-income young adults. America’s fastest growing demographic groups – Latinos and African Americans – are receiving less education than their peers. Year Up provides a year of intense technical and professional training, including internships. Half of the organization’s income comes from corporations that regard the program as a pipeline to young, diverse talent.

Its plans to scale emphasize the practical. New sites will be chosen based on demand, public transportation, and political support as well as start-up capital. Its impact is impressive: 84 percent of its graduates are employed and earning at least $30,000.

Playworks, presented by CEO Jill Vialet:  Teachers used to hate monitoring the playground during recess in low income neighborhoods. Fights happened. Discipline problems arose. Children were injured. Playworks provides trained coaches who guide inner-city teachers and children in using recess for, yes, physical activity but also for conflict resolution, cooperation, and teamwork. Problems are solved using “rock, paper, scissors” rather than fists.

The result is felt in classroom as well as on the playground: Kids are more focused and chronic absenteeism declines.

KIPP, presented by CEO Richard Barth:  KIPP is a national network of free, open-enrollment, college-preparatory public schools that prepares students in under-served communities for success in college and in life. The program is based on setting high expectations and building a partnership among parents, teachers, and students.

Although 85 percent of its students are eligible for the federal free lunch program, 89 percent enroll in college. Of course, that presents other problems, such as financing a college education. For that, KIPP partners with colleges and is testing match savings accounts.

Parent-Child Home Program, presented by executive director Sarah Walzer: The focus of this program, which won last year’s SIEx business plan competition,  is preparing children to enter schools by training their parents to read to and play with the children. Participants receive books and educational toys as well as weekly home visits for two years. The program uses rigorously trained paraprofessionals as home visitors, some of whom were once program participants themselves.

Program participants have a higher rate of high school graduation than their socio-economic peers who did not have the program.

National Math and Science Initiative, presented by CEO Tom Luce: Barely 18 percent of American 12th grade  students perform at or above grade level in science. NMSI uses public-private partnerships to take proven math and science education programs to scale nationally. The organization is not the innovator of the programs but the “scaler and bootson the ground.”

Teach for America, presented by CEO Wendy Kopp: Teach for America aggressively recruits college graduates, who show leadership capabilities, to spend two years teaching in urban and rural areas in order to end educational inequality. The organization trains the corps members and provides ongoing coaching during their term of service.

The improvement in student achievement has been measured by third-party researchers.

The success and scale of these nonprofits show that it can be done, really, it can.