My Nonprofit Reviews
Review for CityScience, Brooklyn, NY, USA
After serving as a founding member of CityScience's board of directors, I have experienced a number of the organization's milestones. With 7 years under our belt, I write this review looking backwards as well as forwards.
Looking back, I ask myself what have we learned?
1. Being client driven is critical. Our very best engagements have been the product of strong relationships with our partners as much as the STEM content, trainings and kits.
2. We are lucky to have strong earned revenue (around 66% of total budget) and fundraising filling the remaining gap. We have never really invested in a development and recognize as a board that greater investments in fundraising acumen are necessary.
3. We have been scrappy and benefited from several generous in-kind contributions. During start-up mode, NY Lawyers for the Public Interest paired us with Skadden Arps who handled IP transfer from our predecessor and did a first rate job with our 501(c)(3) application and bylaws. The Durst Organization gave us free rent for 2.5 years. Bank of NY Mellon, threw us a first-class fundraiser atop the Met Life Building. All Star Movers, has moved us 4 times for cost. Over 150 High School, University, and STEM Pros have volunteered to help us hone our curriculum. For the last 7 months, ghSMART has mentored and helped our ED navigate organizational design decisions. And last summer, Two Trees donated office space for Data Cubed's 55 person corporate volunteer day in DUMBO that prepared 10,000 circuit kits. I know I am forgetting dozens of others -THANK YOU Everyone!
Looking forward, the board is focused on addressing needs that will secure the organization's future.
1. Our talent pipeline has been strong but our retention is weak. Historically, we have attracted a talented and diverse staff, only to watch them go off to lead STEM programs at: Bk. Botanic Garden, Bk. Children's Museum, Solar One, the Highline, Dept. of Edu, environmental centers, and the American Museum of Natural History. Improved salaries and benefits will do lots to stop the churn.
2. We need to grow the board at this stage in our nonprofit lifecycle. Using our board member matrix, the nominating committee has begun recruiting. I suspect in 2018-19, a few key figures will recognize CityScience's pump has been primed and that their fundraising and guidance will take us to a whole new level. Over 80% of nonprofits have budgets below 500k - CityScience is ready for its breakthrough moment.
3. Together, 1 and 2, determines the future of CityScience. It will not be a linear process but it will be iterative and innovative. After working with Thor (our founder & ED), I can attest to that.
In conclusion, visit our new website (launches 11/5/17) and click on the "Get Involved" page. Your donations will be well used and every volunteer walks away knowing they made a difference in urban K-8 STEM education.