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Thursday, January 28, 2010

In difficult economic times, DC SCORES maintains optimal program

I must say that I am growing tired of the ‘economy discussion.’ Yet, I can’t escape it, must attend to it, and must engage in it for many more months to come. Here is a quick, oversimplified synopsis of how this extraordinary economic downturn has affected DC SCORES over the past two fiscal years (our fiscal year mirrors an academic year). 

Spring 2008 – planned for ‘sizable’ salary adjustments for DC SCORES staff members who have long been underpaid for the quality and quantity of work done for the benefit of hundreds of District youth; planned for modification of after-school pay structure so as to retain and attract quality teachers as well as compete with other after-school compensation rates. 

Fall 2008 – passed a fiscal year 2009 budget that honored the above compensation adjustments; that budget included anticipated increases in fundraising event revenue based on successful fiscal year 2008 event models. 

Winter 2008-09 – the reality of the economic downturn becomes clearer. 

Spring 2009 – our events and smaller foundations bring in considerably less dollars than anticipated; large foundation donors stayed level, thankfully. 

Summer 2009 – end the fiscal year with at least a 10 percent drop in funding, the first year in more than five that revenue did not grow. 

Fall 2009 – passed a budget that held steady the staff compensation adjustments from the previous year but scaled back the after-school staff compensation structure, resulting in a less competitive after-school wage for teachers and other part-time staff. Made serious cuts to operating budget, including cutting our already-scaled down winter nutrition and soccer program, pulling summer programs out of the budget unless we can raise direct dollars to support them, and making a variety of administrative modifications that even include limiting our trash pickup in the office from two days a week to one. 

Bottom-line good news . . . no cuts to “core” programming. 

Winter 2009 – Miraculously, had the most successful individual giving campaign in DC SCORES’ history. 

Spring 2010 – Adding a third fundraising event; bracing for continued foundation cuts; continuing to receive applications from schools who want DC SCORES after school. 

So, what does this all mean? It means that we, like so many of our peer organizations, have to be creative, flexible, patient and conservative in our growth and funding estimates. We must have tough, transparent conversations internally about staff compensation, limited ancillary program dollars, and a growing waitlist of schools that want DC SCORES. 

We are fortunate thus far that this economic crisis has not affected our current students in a major way. Seven hundred students in DC SCORES have not experienced a disruption in programming.  

This, I must say, is attributed to the power of individuals. First, DC SCORES staff has worked very hard to implement a program, train after-school staff, and carry out large-scale citywide events on a smaller budget. They have done this and will continue to do so with an incredible commitment to quality.  

Second, our part-time after-school staff, who essentially received raises last year only to get them cut back again this year, forge ahead with the same level of commitment to providing a quality soccer, poetry, and service-learning experience for students. And lastly, our recent annual giving campaign saw a 100 percent increase in dollars raised over last year’s campaign.  

There are individuals (new and existing donors) who seem to be stepping up and stretching their own wallets so services like the ones we provide continue. Our board of directors, as well, has been reinvigorated in their individual monetary and time commitments. I have to believe, and need to believe, that individuals may bridge the gap for us this fiscal year. 

In the end, I want to acknowledge and thank profusely all of the individuals that have and will continue to fill the gaps. This includes individual donors, volunteers, and program officers from our foundations. This also includes our board of directors, new Leadership Council members, and most of all our DC SCORES staff, who all understand that their worth to our students goes beyond dollars and cents, and ,thus, have made this tumultuous and never-ending ‘economy discussion’ palatable for me every day.

-- Written by Amy Nakamoto, DC SCORES Executive Director

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