helping improve outcomes for some of NYC’s poorest performing schools and studentsNonprofit Capacity Building

Capacity Building Single
For one leading youth development organization success and growth have started to come as a result of knowing what it doesnt know, knowing when to say when and when to call for help.

Elevate – New York is a nine year-old youth development organization that has had tremendous success in helping educate and inspire at and high risk students to go on to the next level in one of the poorest census districts in the U.S. The organization has a dynamic Founder, & CEO, a dedicated board, and a small cadre of committed philanthropists who have given it money over the years. However, as a result of a lack of capacity building, Elevate – New York was an organization on the brink of closing its doors. Luckily, the Founder and the Board realized what many nonprofits come to learn too late – that in order to succeed and grow – passion and commitment is not enough. You have to have professionals who know what to do, when to do it and why. Elevate – New York turned to Kevin Russ L.L.C., to improve their capacity to service at and high-risk youth.


The challenge was typical, simple and yet extremely complex. Elevate – New York suffered from many of the challenges and ills that nonprofit organizations experience: staff that had passion for the work, but lacked experience and training in the core competencies of running an effective organization; inadequate financial resources and poor financial management; and a board that was dedicated and committed, but which lacked an understanding of its overall responsibilities and duties and that often deferred to the Founder’s leadership. The organization was running as a cash only operation and for the better part of its’ nine years of existence was doing business in a hand-to-mouth type situation.  All of these things were preventing Elevate – New York from growing and scaling its operation. The organization knew they could corner the market by serving more schools and more kids if they build capacity. However, they needed an immediate remedy to their dysfunctional operation. The initial work  and engagement addressed four critical capacity building and organizational culture issues for Elevate – New York:

  • Increase operational efficiency through a staff augmentation and executive coaching:
    Elevate – New York’s Founder & CEO as many individuals who start organizations had a dynamic and charismatic personality and a strong sense of vision, but was not trained professionally in nonprofit management.
  • Improve the effectiveness of the Board of Directors and their overall role:
    Elevate – New York had a dedicated and committed Board of Directors who were bought who were committed to the Founder’s vision and the organizational mission, but didn’t quite know what their duties and responsibilities were.
  • Enhance its fundraising and development program:
    Elevate – New York had considerable success securing financial resources from individuals, corporations, and foundations over the course of its nine-year existence. The Founder, with little or no fundraising experience managed to secure roughly $2.3 million ($255k annually) but the organization continued to operate in the red.
  • Re-engineer its operations:
    At the time of the decision to collaborate, Elevate – New York was operating totally out of line with nonprofit best practices. It operated on a cash only basis, owed back workmen’s comp and payroll taxes, had a list of outstanding receipts due to various vendors and had scant financial controls in place.


The solution Kevin Russ L.L.C. came up with was really classic textbook nonprofit best practices combined with cutting-edge planning and organization and coupled with some real world practicality and common sense. Both the Founder and Board of Directors knew that the organization was in disarray and that new systems had to be implemented in almost every area of its core business in order for the organization to survive.

The challenge was actually manifold. It was not only communicating what the changes were it was also getting each individual to buy-in to the necessity of making those changes swiftly and taking greater ownership and responsibility of executing tasks in a short time-frame.


Elevate – New York leadership stepped up to the task and become more empowered. Kevin Russ L.L.C. worked with the organization to institute a “CEO staff augmentation”, re-engineer its Board of Director training, development; implemented Board job descriptions with specific targeted responsibilities and goals and re-vamped its identification, selection, and vetting process; installed six (6) new board committees to delegate and streamline the workload.

The organization also improved its operational policies, protocols, policies and procedures. Kevin Russ L.L.C. worked with the Executive Committee, Treasurer and Finance Committee to design some cutting-edge financial controls for the organization; secure a corporate credit car; establish a personnel policy manual; investigate human resource benefits; and design of an end-of-year debt reduction plan to get the organization out of the red.

Additionally, our efforts vastly improved Elevate – New York’s fundraising and development planning and execution efforts and functions. Kevin Russ L.L.C. helped the organization identify over 40 local and regional foundations and over 50 local, regional, and national corporations which closely matched its core business priorities and who have given to organizations previously with the same type of programming. It has also helped the organization to scrub and reactivate lists of previously lapsed donors and develop a re-engagement strategy to strengthen its individual  and annual giving.

By the numbers, the effort:

  • Increased board operational effectiveness by 259%
  • Decreased operational inefficiencies by 374%
  • Lowered the risk of non-compliance issues by 331%
  • Increased fundraising and development efforts by 197%
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“What stands out most about Kevin is his unique ability to balance strong delivery of results with a flexible, collaborative approach. He exceeded my expectations with the thought put behind his strategies as well as the quality of his services.
At the same time, Kevin was always delightful to work with, and his positive attitude always helped carry the entire team through any challenging circumstances that arose.
It is rare to find someone with such strong talent who is also so humble and easy to work with, and it is this combination that I believe allows him to work so effectively with his clients. I would welcome the opportunity to work with Kevin anytime as my Church Consultant, and I give him my endorsement without any hesitation.”

Reverend Simon Dingle
Sr. Pastor, Central Family Baptist Church

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