Capstone Courses and Projects

UJA-Federation of New York

Evaluation of Board Governance
Over the years, stakeholders at UJA-Federation of New York have repeatedly questioned whether its current board governing structure is ideal, given the unique nature of its large constituency and broad mission. UJA-Federation of New York therefore requested that the Capstone team evaluate its board governance, identify its strengths and weaknesses, research alternative models, and offer suggestions for improvement. To this end, the Capstone team conducted a literature review on the subject of board governance and its best practices, investigated alternative board models adopted by comparable nonprofit organizations, created and distributed a board self-assessment survey to all 161 board members, and interviewed a quorum of board and staff members at UJA-Federation of New York. On the basis of its research, the team identified several board models (and suggestions for the current model) which could be implemented by the client to enhance the quality of governance and the engagement of board members.

Career Gear

Improving Process, Communication, Fiscal Operations, and Evaluation at a New York City Nonprofit Organization
Career Gear is a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping disadvantaged men get and keep jobs by providing them with business-appropriate clothing, career counseling, and follow-up job support. Now at a pivotal point in its development, Career Gear requested a Capstone team to gather information from the organization's primary stakeholders. Board members, staff, clients, referral agencies, and peer organizations were interviewed in order to create a full picture of the scope and nature of Career Gear's impact. The information was then compiled, researched, and analyzed to produce a report of findings and recommendations which would assist Career Gear to address the critical issues currently facing the organization. The report's recommendations provide a point of reference as Career Gear begins to expand its services, build a strong financial base, develop a comprehensive communications strategy, and create evaluation mechanisms that will measure the organization's success in fulfilling its mission.

Career Gear

Improving Process, Communication, Fiscal Operations, and Evaluation at a New York City Nonprofit Organization
Career Gear is a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping disadvantaged men get and keep jobs by providing them with business-appropriate clothing, career counseling, and follow-up job support. Now at a pivotal point in its development, Career Gear requested a Capstone team to gather information from the organization's primary stakeholders. Board members, staff, clients, referral agencies, and peer organizations were interviewed in order to create a full picture of the scope and nature of Career Gear's impact. The information was then compiled, researched, and analyzed to produce a report of findings and recommendations which would assist Career Gear to address the critical issues currently facing the organization. The report's recommendations provide a point of reference as Career Gear begins to expand its services, build a strong financial base, develop a comprehensive communications strategy, and create evaluation mechanisms that will measure the organization's success in fulfilling its mission.This Capstone was made possible with the support from an anonymous donor through FJC: A Donor-Advised Fund.

Midtown Community Court, Times Square Ink

Assessment of the Job-Readiness Program at Times Square Ink
Times Square Ink (TSI) is a job-readiness program for ex-offenders which operates within the Midtown Community Court (MCC). MCC, the first initiative of its kind, provides innovative sentencing alternatives to low-level offenders guilty of crimes such as shoplifting, illegal street vending, prostitution, and trespassing that occur regularly in New York City’s Times Square area. MCC sends clients convicted of these crimes to TSI where, through education and support services, they are able to learn skills which will enable them to become functioning members of society. The job-readiness program includes, but is not limited to, soft and hard skills training, resume and computer training, and support services. TSI asked the Capstone team to assess how TSI’s job-readiness program compares to similar programs, focusing on things such as classes, housing assistance, client success rate, marketing, sources of funding, and client tracking software.

El Museo del Barrio

Implementing an Organization-Wide Attendance Tracking and Market Research System
El Museo del Barrio – New York City’s premier institution for Latino arts and culture – sought to better understand its current and potential markets. The Capstone team assessed industry practices in attendance tracking and audience development by surveying staff at similar arts and cultural organizations. A literature review in these areas specifically examined practices for developing relationships with Latino markets. Key demographic data were identified, and the Capstone team interviewed El Museo’s staff to determine what information was of priority to them. From the results of these investigations, the team recommended the following: 1) that El Museo implement a visitor relations software system to manage both demographic information and the administrative functions of museum admission and events scheduling; 2) that periodic market research combine on-line and on-site survey instruments, and 3) that the museum narrow the scope of such surveys to the information of highest priority to their staff. (A sample survey instrument was offered to accomplish this last goal.) These suggestions would provide El Museo del Barrio with a more complete picture of their customer base and a more seamless structure for the flow of that information throughout the organization.

Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies

FPWA Member Agency Survey and Evaluation
The Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies promotes the social and economic well-being of greater New York’s most vulnerable by strengthening human service organizations and advocating for just policies. The Federation works with more than 200 member agencies, and the Capstone team conducted a comprehensive survey of them to better understand how they view the services FPWA provides and the organization as a whole. Through a series of accompanying interviews and focus groups, the team further explored member agency impressions of current and recommended services. The project’s findings and recommendations will help FPWA in making strategic decisions for the future.

Rutherford Public Library

Rutherford Community Assessment
The Rutherford Public Library is one of the largest libraries in New Jersey's most populous county, located just seven miles from midtown Manhattan. In order to develop a comprehensive five-year programming and capital improvements plan, the Library requested that the Capstone team assess their community’s library needs. This community assessment included developing and analyzing the results of a mail-out survey, conducting various focus groups, and interviewing key stakeholders. Coupled with information gathered from research into current issues and trends facing public libraries, the community assessment will allow the Library to better understand and respond to their community’s current and future library needs.

Youth Advocacy Center

Youth in Transition: Ensuring a Future for Teens Leaving Foster Care
Teens aging out of foster care often do not have the skills and support they need to become active, responsible citizens. Youth Advocacy Center has developed a curriculum for social-service agencies that seeks to ensure that every young person leaves foster care prepared to succeed. Its goal is to encourage a policy and service-delivery shift away from a protection- and problems-based focus towards a strength- and assets-based focus that empowers teens to take on responsibilities and plan for their futures. To this end, it seeks partners to replicate its program and allies to support its desired changes in policy and practice. To aid Youth Advocacy Center, the Capstone team interviewed line staff, senior management and leadership at organizations representing foster-care services, after-school programs, community colleges and public education. The team created a comprehensive report of findings and penned an op-ed piece, which highlights the plight of this population and provides recommendations to service providers and policy makers.

Congressional Research Service

An Analysis of Changes in the Federal Civilian Workforce 1995-2005
The federal government is the largest employer in the US and the Federal civilian workforce alone costs taxpayers more than $129 billion each year. At the request of the Congressional Research Service, this report examines trends in the size and characteristics of the civilian workforce from 1995 through 2005. The report finds that after a period of decline, the workforce has again begun to grow in size, the workforce is becoming older, and at the same time it is becoming more concentrated in professional and administrative jobs and the upper pay levels.

New York City Department of Citywide Administrative Services, Office of Energy Conservation

Documentation and Analysis of the City of New York’s Heat, Light, and Power
New York City currently spends over $500 million on the energy required to run city government operations. The Capstone team evaluated the computer model the City uses to forecast those costs for budget purposes. The model estimates costs for approximately 80 agencies, covering 26 utilities and 43 rate plans. As part of the evaluation, the Capstone team documented the model (identifying inputs, outputs, formulas, and linkages between data), analyzed the budget forecasting process and methodology, and developed recommendations for improvement. In addition, the team reviewed energy budgeting products and provided recommendations for enhancing monthly variance reporting. The project was requested by the Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS) and the Office of Energy Conservation (OEC). DCAS provides support services for City agencies, and the OEC is responsible for developing the City’s annual Heat, Light and Power budget.This Capstone was made possible with the support from an anonymous donor through FJC: A Donor-Advised Fund.

United States Government Accountability Office

User Charges: An Analysis of Collection Trends 1997- 2004
The federal government collects user charges in order to link the costs of providing certain goods and services to those who most directly benefit from them. Because of the nation’s renewed interest in creating new revenue streams, the United States Government Accountability Office  the independent agency charged with studying the programs and expenditures of the federal government  asked the Capstone team to examine trends in user charge collection between 1997 and 2004. The Capstone team was given data containing all federal financial activity within this time period, which they used to identify trends in user charge collection by type, federal agency, and as a total amount compared to all federal outlays. The Capstone team detailed its findings in a report to GAO, which may promote discussion on the federal government’s attempt to recover cost of goods and services that are not purely public in nature.