Year Up is a national nonprofit that works to close the “Opportunity Divide” by providing urban young adults with the skills, experience and support that will empower them to reach their full potential through professional careers and higher education. A one-year, intensive training program that provides low-income young adults with a combination of hands-on skill development, college credits, corporate internships and support, Year Up’s vision is that in the future, every urban young adult will have access to the education, experiences and guidance required to realize his or her true potential. Year Up is located in eleven cities throughout the United States, and has served over 9,400 students nationally. The Chicago site currently enrolls 160 students annually.
While Year Up Chicago provides comprehensive services to directly support 160 enrolled students annually, they wanted to reach more young adults throughout Chicago. In 2013, Year Up Chicago set a goal: aiming to grow their existing program to a model that could serve more than 230 students a year by September 2015. In order to reach this goal, they would need strong support around financial management and operations – areas in which many nonprofits struggle to access resources. Beyond financial literacy and internal capacity, Year Up wanted to make certain that the expanded focus would still deliver on their mission and objective of maintaining and improving graduation, employment and college enrollment rates.
In order to work toward their goal of reaching more students, Year Up pursued resources that would support them in monitoring and measuring progress toward growth. While the national Year Up organization had strong program metrics to track progress, the Chicago site looked to establish local metrics that could help predict the local organization’s future goals and outcomes. Year Up approached Taproot to help identify a set of metrics that would monitor and measure these local goals and outcomes. Ultimately, this strategy and goal setting support would enable them to intentionally and strategically achieve its goal of connecting to more young adults in Chicago.
To support developing clear goals and metrics around their expanded programming, the organization was awarded a Strategic Scorecard Service Grant in March 2013. This service, provided by the Taproot Foundation, connected Year Up to a team of professional volunteers, or pro bono consultants, who volunteered their professional strategy expertise three to five hours per week for about nine months.
This team of pro bono consultants was led by Reggie Townsend, a strategy and organizational development expert with over 20 years of experience in driving goal setting and execution within businesses. With the support of a project manager, strategy consultant and two strategy associates, the team was positioned to create a strategic scorecard that would exceed Year Up’s expectations.
The project kicked off in June 2013 and the pro bono consultant team met with Year Up to develop a deeper understanding of the organization’s needs. As a result of the meeting, the pro bono consultant team recognized that the Strategic Scorecard, as prescribed by Taproot, would not meet the particular needs of the organization. Because the organization already had a set of metrics to show organizational success to their board and other stakeholders, they needed a living tool that would help them conclude whether or not they were on track to meet their success metrics throughout the year. The team worked back with Taproot program managers to explain this challenge and, in partnership with Taproot staff, tweaked Taproot’s existing Strategic Scorecard project plan.
After months of reviewing Year Up’s strategic plan and other materials, completing interviews and collecting data, the pro bono consultants presented the final product: a Predictive Modeling Card, or Strategic Scorecard, that identifies Year Up’s position in meeting their success metrics throughout the year. The team then conducted training for staff, management and board members on how they can move forward and best use this new tool to monitor and measure their progress. The project officially completed in December 2013 with a celebration among Year Up and its team of skilled volunteers. The project is valued at $70,000.
The final deliverable is a tool that identifies four key performance indicators for each of the organization’s eight success metrics. This provides insight into what is driving their success. For example, in an effort to ensure Year Up is on track to meet their Long Term Graduate Success metric, the final Predictive Modeling Card identifies the percentage of total students employed as one key performance indicator to monitor this success metric. In addition to a clear framework for their goals, the tool created through the Strategic Scorecard Service Grant has generated a common language across Year Up’s leadership team, enabling the organization to more strategically communicate and collaborate around these metrics. Ultimately, this new resource is enabling them to track and efficiently make progress toward their goals, increasing the number of low-income young adults their programming can serve.
Both the pro bono consultant team and Year Up benefited from the Service Grant. Tshilumba Ngandu, Director of Operations and Strategy at Year Up, reported at the project’s close:
“The scorecard is a tool that our leadership team can look at on a monthly and quarterly basis to inform our board and communicate the progress we are making toward achieving our end outcomes. This tool will help us objectively review and assess our program. We could not have done this work without the leadership and skills of the Taproot team.”
Beyond delivering a valuable tool that will work for years to come, the project created connections between employees and the pro bono consultants and provided personal fulfillment to everyone involved. Reflecting on his experience, Townsend reported:
“The good spirits of two organizations, Taproot and Year Up, combined with talented individuals collectively pursuing a cause, produced a great experience for me. It’s situations like these that make leaders want to lead.”
Piloting the tool in December 2013, Year Up has been consistently using their Strategic Scorecard for the last six months. Year Up recently determined a 50-60% correlation between the metrics predicted using the scorecard to evaluate factors that are crucial to the organization’s success and final success measurements. Ngandu reported: “The pro bono consultant team helped us simplify what our goals were and put them on paper. The team did a great job of getting organizational buy-in, which will help the product be sustainable.” Year Up reported having performed extremely strong in the last year, with their programs’ success rate on the rise. Their success with the Strategic Scorecard has even inspired interest in eventually sharing the resource with other sites across the country.
The Strategic Scorecard is a resource that will impact their work for years to come, serving as a tool for monitoring and measuring progress toward achieving their strategic plan and goals. In the future, as the organization looks to continually expand and improve their programs, Year Up will be positioned to strategically track their success thanks to the tools developed by their team of skilled volunteers.