REACH Prep, was founded in 1994 to prepare and motivate youth Black and Latino students from low- and moderate- income families for success in their secondary school and college careers.
REACH Prep had accomplished much in the cause of its mission. But two years ago, in the face of external and internal changes-scholarships affected by economic recession, more stringent expectations among funders, and staff and board turnovers-the organization needed to assess its strengths and weaknesses and develop a plan for the future. Accordingly, the Lone Pine Foundation underwrote the cost of an organizational assessment, leading to a formula for moving forward. Under the leadership of Gilles Mesrobian, Senior Associate at the Support Center, guidance was provided in the areas of institutional vision, clarification of goals, and clarity of board and staff functions.
Peggy Sarkala, executive director of REACH Prep, said the assessment “helped us build total consensus” on moving board members from micro-management to long-term development. In addition, she said, a new “culture of data-driven valuation” in response to funders’ demands for measured accountability has created “an infinitely higher level of professionalism.”
Most importantly, REACH youngsters are better served—for instance, in just one year student participation in the summer program increased from 60 to 94 percent—and the organization has landed new grants for more initiatives. “We saw a marked improvement in short-term outcomes a year after the assessment,” said Christeen Bernard Dur, associate director of Lone Pine. “They had a greater insight in some [programming] challenges they were facing, and made progress in effectively addressing them through improved staffing.”
All this is critically attractive to funders. As Lucy Ball, executive director of Lone Pine, put it: “We look at our grants as investments. We want to fund well-run organizations in a manner that has greatest impact.”