Community Benefit Schools: Building Partnerships and Nonprofit Capacity

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April 2, 2013 The 20th Annual California Charter Schools Conference and Anniversary Celebration held recently in San Diego was, for us, particularly energizing.

Having Geoffrey Canada as Thursday morning's keynote speaker was not only inspiring, but was wholly fitting end to the week for my colleague Carlyn Obringer and me. For the last couple of years, Carlyn and I have been working to highlight the kind of family-based, neighborhood, and community-based cradle-to-career efforts of charter schools in California that have either been inspired by the work of the Harlem Children's Zone, or more commonly, driven simply by the socio-economic need and opportunity to serve the families and students of their school in a holistic way. We have had the pleasure of offering breakout and centerpiece sessions at the National Charter Schools Conference in Atlanta and last year's conference in California.

Through our "Community Benefit Schools: School and Community Partnerships" series, we've enjoyed being able to hear from school leaders from Education for Change and Vincent Academy in Oakland, Camino Nuevo and Fenton Avenue in Los Angeles, and The O'Farrell Charter School in San Diego about the meaningful ways in which those schools have offered incredible services in their communities. Such services include, but are not limited to:

  • Before and after school care
  • Mental health services, health awareness classes and health screenings
  • Housing support related to evictions
  • Immigration support
  • Operating a Family Center which offers parent classes
  • ESL classes
  • Educating parents about what the achievement gap means and how they can be advocates for their kids and education reform in their communities

We realized however, that as inspiring as it is to hear about why and what schools are doing, many school leaders want to know how to get engaged in this kind of work. So this year we added a second session: "Community Benefit Schools: Building Nonprofit Capacity" that focused on specific tools, processes and methods often used by nonprofit organizations in order to help build the organizational capacity that allows them to take on new, challenging, high-impact projects like those offered by our panelist schools. Some of the tools, processes and methods discussed include:

  • Logic Models
  • CCSA Financial Analysis and Modeling Tool
  • SWOT Analysis
  • Organizational Capacity Assessments
  • Comparing ROI (return on investment) vs. SROI (social return on investment)
  • Balanced Scorecards

We hope that more charter schools will start exploring the possibility of not only operating as the neighborhood school that provides its students with a high-quality public education, but as a community-benefit organization. If your school is already engaged in this work, please contact us as we would love to hear your story, and learn from your experiences.

Access the presentations:

Contact us!
Carlyn Obringer, Manager, Technical Assistance
Jeff Sands, Director, School Development