Reflections from a Semifinalist: The GO Project

The GO Project is one of ten organizations selected as a semifinalist for the 2015 New York Community Trust Nonprofit Excellence Awards.
By Erica Ahdoot, Executive Director of the GO Project

Most likely, you have heard the phrase, “it takes a village to raise a child.” As leaders in the non-profit/educational space, the staff at the GO Project often uses this expression. But how does it hold up when applied to the running—or raising—of a non-profit organization?

The GO Project was recently selected as a semifinalist for the New York Community Trust Nonprofit Excellence Awards. Through the application process, we realized the answer to how to run a successful non-profit was remarkably similar to how to raise a successful young person. It takes a village.

The GO Project’s mission is to shape the futures of under-resourced public school children by providing critical academic, social and emotional support. We leverage resources from the community to deliver a cost-efficient program that ensures students have the skills to succeed at school, at home and in life. Our community’s valuing of our students, willingness to commit resources to their success and joy in seeing them thrive is instrumental in our children’s futures.

The management of a successful non-profit isn’t much different. First, the public needs to view your mission as valuable. GO educates our community on issues relating to our mission by hosting panel discussions on educational equity; centering our high school internship on the impact of racism, privilege and segregation on educational achievement, and we discuss research and analysis on education reform with our networks.

Secondly, the public must be willing to invest their time and resources in your non-profit. At GO, we make cost-efficiency and open communication with our stakeholders a top priority, and we are committed to continual improvement in order to reach our goals.

Lastly, supporters need to find joy and fulfillment in their involvement with your organization. At GO, we connect the range of people who are involved in achieving our mission, help them to feel valued, and celebrate our joint success.

While this “it takes a village” strategy may not fit perfectly for all non-profits, it does work well for GO. “Community-building” is a core part of our approach to achieving success among young people, so it is fitting to apply the same methodology to the management of our organization.

GO’s application for the Excellence Awards has revealed to us the long and varied list of community members who were instrumental to our success. Most importantly, however, the process revealed that our challenge in being successful was less about motivating the community to take action—they already were there—it was about arming them with the right tools to do so.


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