Capstone Courses and Projects
Bridge Street Development Corporation
Quincy Senior Residence, founded in 2006 by Bridge Street Development Corporation (BSDC), provides affordable independent living apartments to low-income seniors in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. Quincy offers a range of need-based, elective programs and services to its residents and members of the local community. BSDC requested a Capstone team to conduct a community needs assessment of seniors residing in Bedford-Stuyvesant, and to provide the organization with strategic recommendations to address some of the most significant gaps in services and programming. The team interviewed staff and community leaders, engaged seniors in a series of focus groups, and conducted a survey in partnership with local organizations. Taking into account the research findings, organizational capacity, potential funding sources, and best practices in senior services, the team developed both short and long-term recommendations for BSDC. Their report informed BSDC’s decision-making as the organization seeks to expand its services and further its mission in Bedford-Stuyvesant.
Mississippi Center For Justice
The Mississippi Center for Justice (MCJ) is an organization that works toward racial and economic equity through legal services, policy advocacy, and education. Founded in 2003, MCJ seeks solutions that address social justice in disaster recovery, housing, healthcare, consumer rights, and education. Through their work, MCJ determined that hunger in Mississippi (20% rate of food insecurity, highest in the US) is particularly relevant to the organization’s mission. MCJ charged the Capstone team with designing an anti-hunger campaign that would improve the conditions for those most affected. The team first conducted demographics research to determine localized needs, a nationwide scan of best practices, an assessment of statewide resources, and interviews with MCJ staff and individuals from anti-hunger related groups. With this information, the team produced recommendations designed to elevate the issue of hunger in the state, provide anti-hunger strategies specific to particular regions, and set the foundation for developing an anti-hunger alliance.
Sunnyside Community Services
Sunnyside Community Services (SCS) is a nonprofit organization located in Western Queens that provides a continuum of services to members of all ages in its local community and the broader NYC metro area. SCS requested a Capstone team to evaluate the effectiveness of its two youth development programs - College Readiness Program (CRP) and Grounded and Positioned for Success (GPS). The team first interviewed both internal and external stakeholders, participated in strategic planning meetings with SCS Management, and conducted focus groups to gain a better understanding of SCS’ approach to youth development and how they can be more effective. Next, the team conducted an assessment of the programs, an environmental scan of the competitive landscape, and looked at research on national best practices. The team’s final report focused on strategic recommendations to assist SCS in the determination of the best program model to serve their target youth population in the future.
Break Away: The Alternative Break Connection
Break Away, a nonprofit organization, supports the development of quality alternative break programs by providing training and information to over 170 universities and 500 nonprofit organizations and by promoting the Active Citizens movement. The organization emphasizes the impact of alternative break programs on student volunteers, but had no method for measuring impact of students’ work on the community partner organizations and host communities in which they serve. The Capstone team interviewed and surveyed student chapters, community partner organizations, Break Away staff and board members to assess their capacity for measuring impact, and performed an environmental scan of current assessment practices within the service-learning field. At Break Away’s Atlanta headquarters, the team facilitated a theory of change workshop to articulate their vision for community impact. The team created tools, user guides and an implementation plan for Break Away to measure qualitative and quantitative impact on community partner organizations and host communities.
Jewish Communal Fund
The Jewish Communal Fund (JCF), a publicly supported foundation, promotes charitable giving to sectarian and non-sectarian organizations through donor advised funds. JCF engaged a Capstone team to determine which factors influence a donor to invest philanthropic dollars with a donor-advised fund versus a private foundation. The team focused on determining which value-added services JCF should consider offering in order to retain and attract new donors at the $1 million to $10 million-asset levels, with an overarching goal of informing JCF’s forthcoming strategic planning process. The team’s research methodology consisted of performing an environmental scan of Jewish and non-Jewish foundations, an existing services analysis, and a cost-benefit analysis of donor-advised funds versus private foundations; conducting interviews with financial, legal, and philanthropic advisors as well as high net-worth donors; and developing an electronic survey of a subset of JCF donors.
Opening Act is a free, after-school theater program operating in 33 underserved New York City public high schools. Opening Act requested assistance from a Capstone team to refine and implement a newly developed performance measurement system. After consulting subject matter experts, surveying stakeholders, and conducting best practice research, the team identified a series of refinements and additions that would improve the system. The team streamlined beginning and end-of-year student surveys, created systems for collecting school data, built a dashboard for displaying data and analyses, and wrote detailed instruction documents for implementation and use of the tools. The team aimed to leave Opening Act in a position to collect performance data accurately and efficiently, interpret and report on that data in a compelling and clear fashion, and train future staff members on the effective use of performance measurement tools.
Bronx Council on the Arts
Bronx Council on the Arts (BCA) is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to encourage and increase public awareness and participation in the arts, and to nurture the development of artists and cultural organizations. With a goal of raising the organization’s profile, BCA requested a Capstone team to assist in developing a formalized volunteer program. The Capstone team began by conducting an environmental scan, competitor analysis, and evaluation of successful volunteer programs; followed by the development and distribution of an extensive survey to internal members of BCA. The information was compiled, researched, and analyzed to produce a report of findings and recommendations, which would assist BCA in establishing and implementing a volunteer program. The report’s recommendations will guide BCA in fulfilling their mission by assessing their image, increasing their brand, developing a successful recruitment plan, implementing marketing strategies, increasing fundraising and selecting and training engaged volunteers.
Career Gear is a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping disadvantaged men obtain and maintain jobs by providing them with business-appropriate clothing, professional development counseling, and follow-up support to achieve self-sufficiency. At a pivotal point in its development, Career Gear requested a Capstone team to provide assistance with executing proper organizational development and management structures. The team first interviewed staff members in order to provide a clear picture of the existing internal management structures. Additionally, the team observed programming and board meetings to clarify the scope and nature of Career Gear's services and needs. The information was then compiled, researched, and analyzed to produce a report of management tools, development models and programming suggestions. These recommendations will assist Career Gear in the building of a sustainable financial path, a strong organizational structure, and ultimately drive the organization's success in fulfilling its mission.
Footsteps is an organization dedicated to providing services to those seeking to enter or explore a world beyond the ultra-Orthodox religious environment. Footsteps was seeking a Capstone team to assess the feasibility, provide recommendations, and develop resources for a newly structured volunteer program for their existing volunteer base. In order to do this, the Capstone team conducted both internal and external research on Footsteps and other organizations with volunteer programs. After completing the analysis, the team provided Footsteps with recommendations for structuring a volunteer program that best utilizes the skills of volunteers, motivates and retains passionate individuals, and creates systems that will help effectively manage and measure the impact their volunteer program has on their participants.
Developing a Human Resources Tool
LatinoJustice PRLDEF (LJP) is a national civil rights organization, founded in 1972, that focuses on defending the civil and human rights of Latino communities. The organization was seeking a formal method to objectively capture the experiences and viewpoints of its employees. The Capstone team was tasked with capturing this information to enable management to make informed decisions through the continuous feedback of its employees, thereby aiding in expansion efforts and the implementation of the organization’s strategic plan. First, the team developed a Human Resources tool to gather employee information, which focused on internal communications, policies and procedures, mission alignment and impact, and employee self-assessment. Development of the tool was guided by insights from staff interviews, a SWOT and STEEP analysis, and an in-depth literature review related to organizational culture, communication, and human resource practices. Following the development phase, the team made recommendations on tool implementation and best practices.
Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty
The Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty (Met Council) is one of New York City’s largest human service agencies, providing thousands of New Yorkers with critical services and assistance in their fight against poverty. As part of an organizational effort to expand the way in which it presents its community-based work, the Capstone team helped create a set of performance metrics that measure the long-term benefits to Met Council’s clients. Working with Met Council staff, the team examined academic literature on performance measurement, and put together a set of measurements that could be used immediately by the Crisis Intervention and Housing programs. These indicators will be used by the organization when communicating with a variety of partners on the utility of their programs in fighting poverty. The team also provided Met Council with a framework that can be used moving forward when measuring other programs within the organization.
Repair the World
Repair the World is a nonprofit organization dedicated to making service a defining element of American Jewish life, learning, and leadership. Repair the World is poised to move from grant making to program implementation, and has identified a gender disparity in volunteering as an obstacle to success, in both their own work and the service field at large. Repair the World commissioned the Capstone team to examine the current state of gender-based recruitment in order to develop a set of recommendations and best practices. The team conducted extensive research, both through a comprehensive literature review and a broad-spectrum of information-gathering interviews. The interviews focused on gender issues, participation in volunteering in religious and secular organizations, gender-based marketing, gender psychology, and identity development. Aside from the final report, the team created an outward-facing tool for use by Repair the World’s partners in improving gender balance in volunteerism.