Capstone Courses and Projects
Building a Best Practices Foundation to Enhance Community Impact
The Elmezzi Foundation, a family foundation dedicated to providing assistance to individuals who, due to either environment or circumstance, have not had the ability to live independent and productive lives, is in a period of focused reflection. In trying to solidify their footprint on the communities they serve, Elmezzi requested a Capstone team to strengthen internal systems and procedures, and tailor grant operations based on best practices in the field. In collaboration with Elmezzi staff, a select sample of grantees and several similar small foundations, the Capstone team embarked on a comprehensive process of identifying current best practices and reporting mechanisms and systems. The team provided recommendations and applicable tools to guide Elmezzi’s organizational decision-making and continued internal assessment for creating durable impact and refined purpose in the community.
Arab American Association of New York
Conducting a Pilot Community Needs Survey of the Arab-American Population in Southwest Brooklyn
The Arab American Association of New York (AAANY) is a grassroots nonprofit that aims to support and empower the Arab immigrant community by providing services to help them adjust to their new home and become active members of society. The Capstone team worked with AAANY to conduct the first ever social-service community-needs assessment of Arab Americans in Southwest Brooklyn. With guidance from AAANY, the Capstone team designed a bilingual survey instrument and implementation plan. The team analyzed the survey results to determine descriptive demographic information about AAANY's potential and current client base; barriers experienced by Arab Americans in accessing social services; and opinions about the most significant issues facing the community. Based on the pilot survey's implementation, the Capstone team developed recommendations that will assist AAANY in enhancing future assessments so that the organization can better understand, serve, and support the Arab immigrant community.
Click here to download a PDF of the project.
Harlem Educational Activities Fund
Creating, Cultivating and Sustaining Alumni Engagement
Harlem Educational Activities Fund (HEAF) is a supplemental education and youth development organization that seeks to proactively involve more of its alumni in the life and development of the organization. HEAF requested a Capstone team to identify gaps in HEAF’s alumni engagement program and develop a comprehensive proposal for cultivating alumni voluntary and financial support. To this end, the Capstone team conducted a comprehensive research project to better understand the root causes of the organization’s challenges and learn how to engage alumni in more meaningful ways. The final deliverables provided insights on service and connection priorities identified by an internal and external scan, and outlined a multi-year implementation program that includes activities, schedules, and metrics to produce more satisfied alumni, increased involvement, and enhanced giving.
Designing a Job Training and Career Readiness Program for Footsteps Participants
Footsteps provides educational, vocational, social, and emotional support to men and women seeking to explore the world beyond the insular ultra-orthodox communities in which they were raised. Although Footsteps offers informal job readiness support, many participants do not know how to look for a job and struggle to hold onto jobs once they obtain them. To address this issue, the team conducted an environmental scan, as well as created reference guides and an overview of best practices. The team also conducted a needs assessment by engaging in interviews with Footsteps staff and participants, partner agency staff, and other NYC organizations providing job-related services. In addition, the team created and distributed a survey to Footsteps participants. Based on this extensive research, the team designed a job training/career readiness program, including the production of a logic model, program activities, program budget, and performance metrics.
Leadership Enterprise for a Diverse America
Developing Tomorrow's Leaders Today
Leadership Enterprise for a Diverse America (LEDA) is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to developing the academic and leadership potential of exceptional high school students from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds. Now at a critical juncture, LEDA requested that the Capstone team help the organization measure their scholars’ academic success, employability, and level of civic engagement. The Capstone team prepared an evaluation framework for future cohorts of students, and provided recommendations for resource allocation and strategic direction in building the organization’s program. The team reviewed quantitative and qualitative information about LEDA through data analysis and staff and scholar interviews. After rigorous research focusing on college access, college success, and leadership frameworks, the Capstone team developed short and long-term recommendations for scholar support and evaluation tools. This project will enable LEDA to refine and scale its program model, more accurately understand and share the impact of its work, and increase fundraising potential.
Partnership for the Homeless
From Crisis to Prosperity: A Sustainable Approach to Breaking the Cycle of Homelessness
Partnership for the Homeless is a New York City based nonprofit committed to breaking the cycle of homelessness by helping clients achieve long-term prosperity. The Partnership requested a Capstone team to design a Career Development Program at their Family Resource Center (FRC) in East New York. The team researched national workforce program models, housing and financial assistance policies, and the local job market. This research led to interviews with program and grant managers of nationwide Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) Financial Opportunity Centers which model the bundling of financial coaching, income supports, and employment services. The team also interviewed FRC staff to understand the scope of services and its client base. The result is a center-wide service model which brings case management, career development and long-term prosperity to the forefront of the Family Resource Center’s work. The team identified a staffing structure, transition strategy, and potential sources of funding to bring the model to life.
Improving Partner Recruitment and Management for MOUSE Corps Program
MOUSE is a nonprofit organization that empowers and educates underserved students to provide technology support and leadership in their schools, supporting their academic and career success. MOUSE Corps, one of the organization’s three programs, is a summer program that places students in partner corporations throughout New York City for a six-week internship in tech support. Now at a pivotal point in its development, MOUSE requested a Capstone team to evaluate and systematize their partnership management process to ensure that the organization maintains quality, long-term relationships with their partner corporations. Research into MOUSE’s existing marketing materials, survey data, current partners, and competitors was conducted to evaluate where the organization stood in its partnership program. The information was then compiled and analyzed to produce a document of findings and recommendations for MOUSE. A manual for partnership management was then produced for MOUSE to implement immediately for this summer’s partner organizations and subsequent years thereafter.
Episcopal Social Services of New York
Improving Program Quality by Fostering a Data Driven Culture
Episcopal Social Services (ESS), founded in 1831, is a nonprofit organization that provides nonsectarian services to high need communities in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Queens in order to strengthen families and promote healthy development of children and youth. The agency is interested in strengthening organizational reporting systems that help managers improve program performance. ESS requested a Capstone team to build a process that streamlines the measurement and management of data, integrates program goals, and satisfies the reporting and management needs of multiple stakeholders. The team worked directly with the staff at the organization’s After School program to develop a user-friendly reporting tool that efficiently captured significant outcomes and improved data collection and management processes. In its final report, the team delivered a set of tools and recommendations that will support ESS in replicating the process across other programs and building a culture that values data and promotes accountability.
Strategic Expansion Plan
Cause Effective is a nonprofit consulting firm that works with other nonprofits to develop fundraising strategies. It is currently considering ways to expand its client base to diversify and stabilize its own income streams. The Capstone team was engaged to collect insights into new market opportunities, particularly larger clients that can pay for services directly. To do so, the team interviewed staff, Board Members, and close associates about Cause Effective’s current capacity. The Capstone team also spoke with current and past clients, decision makers at larger nonprofits, and competing consulting firms to identify opportunities and threats that might be faced in this new market. Additionally, the team sent a survey to 150 larger NYC nonprofits to gain further insight about their relationship with consultants and conducted a focus group to test preliminary recommendations. The final report provided tiered recommendations and highlighted how Cause Effective might adapt to serve this market, and stay true to its current mission.
Sauti Yetu Center for African Women
Strategic Planning for the National African Immigrant & Refugee Women’s Network
Three years ago, Sauti Yetu Center for African Women founded the National African Immigrant & Refugee Women’s Network (NAIRWN). This Network is comprised of African women who live across the United States, and aims to improve the lives of African refugee and immigrant women and girls. Sauti Yetu engaged the Capstone team to develop and compose a strategic plan to formalize and guide NAIRWN’s future structure and activities. To inform this strategic plan, the team conducted an environmental scan and SWOT assessment, interviewed the Network’s Core Strategy Group, and facilitated a strategic planning workshop with Sauti Yetu representatives. The final deliverable provides the Network with a clear organizational strategy and growth plan that NAIRWN can use to strengthen its membership base, secure financial support, and further its goal to build a national advocacy network for African women and girls across the country.
Strengthening Human Resource Processes and Determining a Salary Scale for a Health and Human Services Agency
Comunilife is a multi-service, health and human service agency providing culturally appropriate and community-centered mental health and social services, meals, and housing for people who are homeless and/or low-income, mentally ill, or living with HIV/AIDS. Comunilife requested a Capstone team to help it devise an employee compensation strategy, including a structured salary scale in line with similar human service agencies, and provisions for a reward system based on factors such as longevity and merit. As a part of this analysis, the Capstone team researched industry survey data and developed a qualifications tier structure that is tied to compensation. Additionally, the team conducted a job description analysis based on employee interviews to determine the comparability of job duties at Comunilife to those of similar organizations. Findings from this project will allow the organization to strengthen its human resource processes and make more informed and strategic decisions concerning hiring, employee motivation, and retention.
Repair the World
Surveying the State of Volunteerism in the American Jewish Community
Repair the World’s mission is to inspire and build a movement that makes service a defining element of American Jewish life, learning, and leadership. Repair connects Jewish Americans to meaningful volunteer opportunities, and builds the capacity of Jewish organizations to run effective service programs. With little data existing on volunteer practices in the organized American Jewish community, the goal of this project is to assess the state of volunteering in the Jewish social sector, identify ways in which Repair can support organizations, and to uncover outstanding models of volunteer service already in practice. The Capstone team developed a survey tool to collect data from organizations across the nation to help Repair establish baseline measures of the field. The Capstone team’s findings will be published in a Repair the World report on the state of volunteering in the Jewish community.