“And it’s kind of a fundamental belief that it’s not just about a check — it’s about that experience with [City Year] corps members, with students, with a shared belief and a shared commitment to service and the importance of service,” he adds. “It’s really a philosophy of not just giving to City Year, but of experiencing City Year. And so, really, we hope that we’re providing people with an experience that’s consistent with our belief in the power of service.”
That could mean anything from personal thank-you phone calls from corps members to even low-value donors, to attendance at local galas, to membership on local-site boards, to personalized City Year service programs that put supporters on the ground and in the heart of the organization’s mission.
City Year is a single 501(c)(3) organization with 18 sites in 20 communities across the country (plus one in South Africa). Each site has its own executive director (or co-executive directors) and development team, and relies on a combination of self-generated funding and trickle-down from national headquarters. The sites recruit young people ages 17 to 24 (corps members) and set them up as tutors and mentors in local public schools, working alongside teachers in classrooms and after-school programs, as well as in other out-of-the-classroom, community-service projects.
The organization overall gets 32 percent of its support through government funding — 24 percent from AmeriCorps and 8 percent from other government sources. Another 21 percent comes from foundations. Those monies flow fairly freely so long as the paperwork is in place. But two other large chunks of funding — corporate partnerships and individual giving (24 percent and 16 percent, respectively) rely heavily on City Year’s ability to forge relationships. (The remaining 7 percent comes from in-kind gifts.)
On the corporate side, national and local partnership models offer companies the ability to pretty much design their own City Year experiences. The organization’s National Leadership Sponsors are ARAMARK, Bank of America, Cisco, Comcast, CSX, Pepperidge Farm, Pepsi, Timberland and T-Mobile. Outdoor-wear giant Timberland, for example, started out by donating 50 pairs of boots to corps members in Boston in 1989. From that initial donation, Timberland helped found City Year New York; President and CEO Jeffrey Swartz served as chair of City Year’s National Board of Trustees from 1994 to 2002; and the company became the organization’s official outfitter, providing 1,500 corps members and staff with full uniforms.