Kristin Ehrgood and Vadim Nikitine did not have a typical first date. Instead of the usual discussion of hobbies, families, and favorite music, they went to work designing their own nonprofit—over a bottle of wine.
“We didn’t know precisely what the nonprofit was going to do,” said Vadim, with a laugh. “But we did discuss what it would look like, what it would feel like…That exists on a napkin somewhere.”
Kristin and Vadim, investors in VPP’s Second Fund, used the napkin-inscribed plan when they launched their first joint endeavor, Sapientis, in Puerto Rico in 2002. For the last nine years, they have been influencing the nonprofit sector in the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico through their nonprofit organizations and their foundation, the Flamboyan Foundation.
Sapientis, a nonprofit organization focused on building a diverse and informed movement of change agents who are committed to improving public education, is based in Vadim’s home-territory of Puerto Rico. Their second endeavor, Flamboyan Foundation, began in Puerto Rico in 2007 and expanded to DC in 2009. In Puerto Rico, the foundation is a leader in driving education reform and at the forefront of developing more robust and effective philanthropic and nonprofit sectors. In DC, Flamboyan is spearheading efforts to connect schools and families in ways that accelerate student learning. The foundation also invests in opportunities to bridge the divide between “education reform” and community. Key to that work is DC School Reform Now, a nonprofit Kristin and other DC residents started in 2009 to build local support for the educational changes taking place in the District.
Vadim was not always focused on education, and actually began his philanthropic career working on environmental issues, an area he was drawn to because of his brother Pavlik’s work as an environmentalist in Peru. He is President of Commercial Centers Management, a holding company with property in Puerto Rico, Florida and the Midwest. Vadim gave his first gift to a national park in Peru to hire guards to control access to the park, more specifically to protect it from poachers and loggers. He currently serves on the board of Rare and actively invests in green technologies.
But, when he decided on the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University for his master’s, “I met the education nonprofit champion herself…” he said.
“…and then he started focusing on education,” finished Kristin.
Kristin has an extensive background in education and education reform, starting her career as a Teach for America corps member, first in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and then in Trenton, New Jersey. After teaching for three years she became Executive Director of Teach for America in New Jersey for four years, and later was the first Director of National Expansion where she laid the groundwork for expansion into Chicago, Atlanta, and schools in the Navajo Nation. Then, she went off to grad school.
“I went back to grad school for two reasons,” she said. “One, I needed a time out, and I felt to take my next professional step, I needed letters behind my name. Secondly, I was considering either starting a nonprofit organization or running for public office, and thought the Kennedy School would be a good place to make that decision. I quickly realized I felt a greater affinity for the people in the nonprofit world.”
After grad school, Vadim returned to Puerto Rico and Kristin joined him. During their time as residents on the island, they made a sustained impact with Sapientis and Flamboyan. Sapientis has mobilized thousands of people to understand the challenges facing public education and to demand better quality for students. Given the lack of solid education data on the island for making strategic philanthropic investment decisions, Flamboyan has conducted in-depth studies on Puerto Rico’s school directors, the characteristics of Puerto Rico’s best performing schools, and the relationship between local and federal education policies. Flamboyan uses these reports to make strategic decisions about where they should focus their work, and to provide the broader education community with much needed data. In fact, one senior level administrator in the Puerto Rico Department of Education refers to Flamboyan’s report as her “bible.”
Flamboyan is also reshaping the philanthropic community in Puerto Rico. The island did not have a simple, straight-forward tax deduction for charitable contributions and individuals were only able to deduct 33% of a total gift. Flamboyan believed this was a significant barrier to the growth of the philanthropic sector, so they brought together nonprofit organizations and individual donors to invest in a study that examined the financial implications of increasing the tax incentives for people making charitable donations. Flamboyan worked with numerous groups to share the results and partnered with government leaders to change the tax code. Starting next year, individuals and corporations will be able to deduct 100% of their donations. It is this kind of systemic approach they bring to all of their philanthropy, using research, building strategic partnerships and leveraging their resources toward focused goals.
Despite their successes, both Kristin and Vadim are quick to push back on the labels of “foundation leaders” or “philanthropists.” Neither sees themselves or their foundation in a traditional light; instead, they think of their work simply as, “social change.”
“I have always thought of myself as a change agent,” said Kristin. “Money is one thing we bring to the table, but we also bring knowledge and people, which are more important resources in driving change than money.”
Vadim agreed, adding, “In Puerto Rico and in DC, our recent successes have been more a result of putting the right people in the room, giving them the correct research and data, and providing the operational support. This has been true in the areas of philanthropy and education and it would not have happened with just money,” he said.
“We constantly ask ourselves, ‘What do we want to achieve? What are the outcomes we want to see and what are the barriers that exist to realizing those outcomes?’ Then, our strategies are all aimed at knocking down the barriers,” said Kristin.
After working in Puerto Rico for six years, they decided to make DC their home because of the District’s strong nonprofit presence and an international feel.
In 2008, Kristin began defining Flamboyan’s area of focus in DC by talking with local leaders and conducting focus groups with 150 families regarding their experiences with the public education system. Based on the research, the pair determined that there was not enough attention being paid to helping schools and teachers work with families in ways that accelerate students’ learning. They also learned the community felt left behind with the new educational changes taking place in the District.
Today, Flamboyan is partnering with schools and teachers through a variety of programs and investments to maximize the time teachers and families spend with one another. Specifically, the foundation is helping teachers and parents build productive relationships focused on individual students’ academic achievement. This work is already changing school culture and breaking down the assumptions teachers and parents hold of one another. More importantly, it is increasing student attendance and, according to the educators, helping students catch up academically.
With three organizations under their belts and a laser-like focus on outcomes, the impact of this atypical couple continues to grow. They were featured in Washington Life’s annual Philanthropic 50 in April and were invited by the US Department of Education to play a major role in Secretary Arne Ducnan’s first visit to Puerto Rico in October. Kristin and the work of the foundation were recently featured in a front page Washington Post article on home visits, and they are working with DCPS on system-wide strategies to help support teachers in their family engagement efforts. As the year progresses and Flamboyan deepens its work with schools and community, Kristin and Vadim keep one goal in mind:
“Every child needs to have a world class education if we are ever going to break the cycle of poverty,” said Kristin. “All of our work is aimed at helping students succeed so they have as many options as our child has. That is what this is all about and anything less is unacceptable.”
One year after VPP’s multi-year investment in KIPP DC, the organization has completed its annual review, meeting all of its milestones for the first period.
The DC public charter school network served 1,550 students when it began the VPP investment in 2010. Over the past year, KIPP DC expanded by almost 70% to serve 2,623 students. The organization now operates three early childhood schools, two elementary schools, three middle schools, and one high school. For the 2011-2012 school year, KIPP DC’s 10th graders matriculated into its first 11th grade class. In fall 2012, KIPP DC will be serving a full spectrum of students, from 3 year-olds in pre-K to high school seniors.
“Working with KIPP DC has been a terrific experience for me and VPP,” said Marc Schindler, the lead Partner at VPP on the KIPP DC investment. “Its growth has been impressive, as has the focus on increasing the capacity of an already-strong headquarters.”
KIPP DC opened two schools in the past year: Heights Academy, an elementary school at its Douglass Campus in Ward 8; and Grow Academy, an early childhood school at its Shaw campus in Ward 2. In total, KIPP DC has nine schools, which will increase to ten by the end of the investment period. Those ten schools will serve over 3,400 students.
This increase in students is coupled with sustained, exemplary academic performance. The 2011 DC Comprehensive Assessment System (CAS) testing showed that KIPP DC students are amongst the highest performing in each grade level tested. Furthermore, KIPP DC was the highest performing school system for 7th, 8th, and 10th grade math and reading.
“The students and teachers at KIPP DC continue to raise the bar for academic success in public education,” said KIPP DC Founder and Chief Executive Officer Susan Schaeffler. “Year after year, our students and alumni prove that any student – regardless of circumstance or zip code – can achieve and excel. With our network of schools serving students from preschool through 12th grade, we are beginning to see what can be achieved when students never face the achievement gap.”
KIPP DC’s dedication to the low-income youth of DC is seen not only in the expansion of its enrollment and the academic results of students, but also in an innovative development at its Benning Road campus. In December, KIPP DC partnered with Kids Smiles to open up a dental clinic for students and other children in the community after realizing how much time was missed from school due to limited access to dental care. This clinic serves more than 15 schools and will serve over 1,500 children in its first year of operation.
Increasing the capacity of the KIPP DC headquarters is another area of focus for the VPP investment and the organization made significant strides on related milestones this year. It hired all but one of the positions identified as a priority during the business planning process and staff are actively working to put the final person in place. It raised over $9M, exceeding its goal of $4.7M, and more than one-half million dollars of those funds were from new donors.
VPP has also entered into a separate partnership with KIPP DC through its youthCONNECT Social Innovation Fund initiative. Through youthCONNECT VPP is funding KIPP DC’s alumni support program, KIPP Through College, as well as a rigorous evaluation of the program. Also, in the last year KIPP DC has made significant advances with its college access and support programs. Three quarters of its alumni have gone on to a two- or four-year university or college, with half of them attending a four year university. In comparison, less than a third of DC students overall enroll in college within 18 months of graduation. KIPP DC alumni also continue to persist in college at high rates: three quarters of those who entered college in 2009 continued on to a second year of college in 2010.
“KIPP DC’s performance academically has been outstanding, and its strides in service expansion and institutional capacity only make this partnership even more impressive.” said Schindler. “We all look forward to seeing what KIPP DC accomplishes next year and in the remainder of our investment.”
“When KIPP DC moved forward with an ambitious growth plan to become a ten school network, we knew we needed to invest in the critical infrastructure that would allow us to maintain the highest quality school system. VPP’s support and guidance has helped us to grow and sustain a model of excellence not only in the classroom, but also in our headquarters operations. They have been incredible partners in our mission to raise expectations of public education in underserved communities,” said Allison Fansler, President and Chief Operating Officer of KIPP DC.
Last month, Fight for Children announced the outline of its five-year strategic plan to ensure kindergarten readiness for all DC children. The framework has two components: "champion change" and "change lives."
The “champion change” component will focus on systemic-level initiatives. Fight for Children is working on raising early childhood standards, ensuring accountability to these standards, and helping to improve the quality of all programs. In addition to this system-wide focus, Fight for Children will also make direct investments in early childhood organizations to “change lives” of hundreds of young children.
Applications for Social Impact Exchange’s 2012 Business Plan Competition are now being accepted. The Competition identifies social sector scaling initiatives with demonstrated impact and readiness to scale, and supports the winners with financial and consulting awards. U.S.-based nonprofit organizations with a focus in education, youth development, health, poverty alleviation and community economic development are eligible to enter.
The Competition, sponsored by Growth Philanthropy Network, Duke University, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation, accepts applications not only for scaling organizations, but also programs, collaboratives, policy initiatives, advocacy campaigns, and social movements or marketplace solutions.
The deadline for entry is December 9, 2011. For further information, visit http://www.socialimpactexchange.org/bpc_overview.cfm or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks to Rick Chen, Director of Development, for this update.
Over 60 parents, volunteers, staff, and students came together to celebrate the new school year with a BBQ on a rainy October 1st at Wheaton Regional Park. With the support and sponsorship of the National Association of Asian American Professionals of DC, AALEAD students from DC and Maryland had the opportunity to meet each other.. Students also listened to a preview of the programs planned for the year while staff recruited volunteers.
“Despite the rain and cold, we had a great student turnout, said Sumiko Chambers, Volunteer Coordinator. “Everyone was very excited about this year's programs and theme.”
Thanks to Manager of Development Anna Berke for this update.
Autumn is a time when many Alexandria parents replace their children’s coats from last season to keep them warm during the impending winter. The parents who work tirelessly for their families often do not have the resources to get their children a new coat each year.
On behalf of these families, Pat Miller and the generous members of the Del Ray Business Association delivered approximately 200 coats for Child and Family Network Center’s three and four year olds. Pat rallied over 50 citizens in two weeks to collect the coats. Special thanks go to the American Hospital Association and its employees for purchasing 62 coats, to Congressman Jim Moran’s office for purchasing 18 coats, and to the Arlandria Chirilagua Business Association for purchasing 10 new coats.
“What champions!” says CFNC’s Executive Director Margaret Patterson. “To all those amazing donors who took time from their busy schedules to keep a child warm, we salute you. Parents take for granted buying warm coats for their children. CFNC parents cannot.”
Thanks to Laura Anduze, Communications and Marketing Manager, for this update.
On October 1, CentroNía celebrated its 1st Annual Literacy Festival to highlight the importance of Family Literacy in the District, celebrate the work of CentroNía’s Family Book Clubs, and reach out to new families in Ward 7. CentroNía staff welcomed over 300 children and family members to the event along with Mayor Gray and Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services, Beatriz "BB" Otero, CentroNía’s founder.
The Festival brought together Family Book Clubs from across Wards 1, 5, 7 and 8. The event was purposely held in Ward 7 at the newly renovated Deanwood Recreation Center, as CentroNía is located in Ward 1 and the organizers of the event wanted it to be more inclusive. The Ward 7 location enabled parents and families from that Ward and surrounding Wards to easily navigate their way through the event and have direct access to the resources provided by our headquarters’ site on Columbia Road.
“When hundreds of parents and children come together from across the district to read with published authors from their own communities, they are not only learning about the stories shared that day, but about the possibilities for their own lives: That they too, may one day write words that will inspire a city to unite around the joy of literacy", expressed Tehani Collazo, Ph.D., Director of Community Education for CentroNía.
CentroNía’s Family Book Clubs are conducted all year long in various sites throughout the District. Since the program began in 2005, the clubs have served 1,700 families.
Thanks to Lindsay Kelly, Communications Manager, for this update.
KIPP DC’s Capital Teaching Residency (CTR) has joined a growing multi-sector movement currently composed of more than 80 partners committed to working to recruit, develop, and retain 100,000 excellent STEM teachers over the coming 10 years. The movement is being led by Carnegie Corporation of New York and the Opportunity Equation.
100Kin10 is a multi-sector mobilization that invites a wide range of organizations to apply their particular assets to creatively and strategically address the challenges of increasing the supply of and retaining excellent STEM educators. As a partner organization, Capital Teaching Residency has committed to recruiting and training 200 new STEM teachers in high-performing public charter schools by 2015.
Capital Teaching Residency (CTR) is closing the achievement gap by increasing the number of highly-effective educators in the District of Columbia. CTR is a joint teacher training program between KIPP DC and E.L. Haynes Public Charter School that trains aspiring teachers through an intensive one-year residency in high-performing public charter schools.
Thanks to Araceli Curiel Rosenberger, Communications Specialist, for this update.
LAYC is proud to announce that the Pancho Gonzalez Youth Tennis & Education Academy has won the US Tennis Association Mid-Atlantic Section’s Community Program of the Year and the Washington Tennis Association's Organization of the Year Awards. This academy—run by LAYC—introduces tennis and teaches life skills to disadvantaged youth in the District of Columbia.
"LAYC's success in reaching and engaging local low-income youth through tennis is commendable," remarked Kathy Stroop, President of USTA/Mid-Atlantic Section. "We truly value your participation within our programs in which you’ve dedicated your time and heart to this game that we all love."
Pancho Gonzalez staff will attend the Washington Tennis Association Awards Luncheon, held at the Gallaudet University Kellogg Conference Center on Saturday, November 12, 2011, and the US Tennis Association Mid-Atlantic Section Annual Meeting and Awards Luncheon on November 19, 2011.
Thanks to Lyda Vanegas, Director of Advocacy and Communications, for this update.
A groundbreaking ceremony on October 26, 2011 celebrated the expansion of Mary’s Center services to Prince George’s County, Maryland. Work has begun on a new center for the organization, which will open for clients in early 2012.
“Prince George’s County is clearly an area with great health disparities that need to be addressed,” said Maria Gomez, President and CEO of Mary’s Center. “Seventy percent of our participants currently coming for services to our site in Montgomery County are residents of Prince George’s County, and that was one of the most powerful drivers for us to open a site here.”
A $1.5 million grant from CareFirst will allow the Center to deliver primary care and other family services to County residents.
“We project to see over 6,000 patients in 2012, representing 12% of the current underserved low-income population in this service area,” says David Tatro, Chief Operations Officer for Mary’s Center and leader of the expansion.
Construction work on the new health center began November 1 and Mary’s Center expects that the new Prince George’s County health center will open in early February 2012.
Thanks to Laura O'Connor, Director of Communications, for this update.
Last fall, Anthony Black was one of five students featured in Davis Guggenheim’s documentary film about education reform, Waiting for “Superman”. The documentary film argued for the need for education reform and chronicled the lives of five children who were eager for the chance to receive a quality education. Anthony was hoping to be admitted into The SEED School of Washington, D.C. through the school’s lottery.
This fall, Participant Media, the social action firm behind the film, released a short update about the two students who were admitted to their schools of choice, Anthony and Emily. Find out how they are doing in this short video.
Thanks to Sean Segal, Chief of Staff, for this update.
The partnership between Deloitte and Urban Alliance continues to grow – with great benefits for DC youth. Over the past months, Urban Alliance welcomed Mark McNamee, a Deloitte Director, to its Board as VPP’s representative. In addition, Deloitte also agreed to provide pro-bono services to Urban Alliance, helping formalize business practices. Deloitte also hosted Urban Alliance youth at a recent Young Professionals Networking Event.
At the event, Wendy Guerrero, an Urban Alliance 2011 Alumnus, shared her experience in the program. Her story touched on the importance of persistence, follow through, and networking. Wendy shared how these qualities have led to her securing employment at the World Bank this coming summer.
The Interns and Deloitte staff then broke out into small networking groups. Some of the Deloitte staff took groups of Interns on tours of their offices. They discussed topics that ranged from office etiquette to the importance of bringing a water bottle to work. The Interns were particularly interested in the practice of “hoteling” (working for short periods of time in different offices) in the consultancy field.
To wrap up the event, a panel of recent Deloitte Interns shared tips and advice on how the Urban Alliance Interns can distinguish themselves and make an impression in their offices. They stressed the importance of having a positive attitude and striving to add value. Deloitte representative Will Saborio said, “Do what you are supposed to do and do it well.” Urban Alliance Intern Kevohn McCormick asked the panel what their hardest adjustments were upon entering the professional world. The panel highlighted the importance of maintaining a level of professionalism in all forms of communication.
Thanks to Marlissa Hudson, Manager of External Relations, for this update.
On Wednesday, October 5, 160 students and staff of Year Up National Capital Region gathered together to further its mission of closing the opportunity divide through the second annual “Walk for Opportunity”. Click here to read more about the event and view photos by Justin Steele.
|Venture Philanthropy Partners (VPP) is a philanthropic investment organization that helps great leaders build strong, high-performing nonprofit institutions. It concentrates money, expertise, and personal contacts to improve the lives of and boost the opportunities for children and youth of low-income families in the National Capital Region and cultivates a growing donor community of high net worth families to generate funding and influence in support of these institutions and of social change.|
|Copyright 2011© Venture Philanthropy Partners|