“But with every company with which we try to create a partnership, it all starts with understanding what their corporate social-responsibility interests are, what their corporate values are, understanding what it is we do, what it is we want to do, trying to find that right match — which isn’t always simple,” he adds.
City Year reaches out to people it has deemed as “philanthropically inclined” within the communities it serves, according to Gordon. Galas are a large part of its outreach and provide myriad opportunities for both City Year corps members and the students they work with to tell their stories.
City Year has a dual constituency, of sorts. It provides life-changing leadership and service experiences for corps members, but it also works miracles in the lives of the students it serves. In a time when nonprofits have to zero in on very specific mission goals in order to stand out, the seemingly two-pronged mission might be seen as a handicap. Not so, according to Gordon and Alison Franklin, the organization’s communications co-director.
“In terms of the compelling remarks that people have heard over the years, some will be the transformative experiences that corps members have,” Franklin says. “But we also have young people talking about coming to school every day because they know if they don’t, that corps member is going to be at their house or talking to their mom.
“Whether you were the overachieving kid looking for the extracurricular activities or you were the troublemaker kid and there was a corps member in your class who’d been like you in fourth grade and who could save you from a lot of what he’d gone through … we could fill the day with stories about the transformative effects,” she adds. “Some of them are going to be about corps members, some of them are going to be from students, and some of them are from principals, superintendents. Any corps member, any school, any student can provide us with that story that connects donors and other people to City Year.”