But Gordon is undaunted and maintains that it’s all working for City Year, thank you very much. And, indeed, the organization’s $50 million 20th Anniversary Campaign would seem to attest to that. It began its quiet phase at the start of 2008 and already has raised $28.5 million to support the organization’s national Whole School Whole Child program and build its national recruitment effort. The bulk of those gifts came in as three-year commitments that, Gordon hopes, will get City Year “out of … the annual-itis of any nonprofit organization.”
“We’d be better planners in terms of our service delivery if we knew we had a continuity of funds,” he says. “We can be better stewards of donor support when we know we have a continuity of funds.”
The effort, which Gordon describes as a “very quick, very tight campaign,” is set to conclude by opening day 2009, when the 2009-2010 corps members begin their year of service.
The real challenge for City Year, Gordon says, lays in simply increasing brand awareness and standing out from the crowds of nonprofits operating in City Year site cities.
“I’m spoiled. I’m here in Boston. We were founded in Boston. So, I kind of thought that the whole world knew about City Year,” Gordon says, intimating that recent research on brand awareness suggests differently. “But City Year is entering Miami this year, entering a space that’s very competitive with lots of nonprofit organizations, with lots of nonprofits working with youth, working in the education space.
“Building awareness of City Year in Miami, or Los Angeles where it’s 2 years old, or even in a city where it’s been around 15 years … that’s the challenge,” Gordon says.
“But I think that once people hear the story more, they understand it. City Year, like so many other organizations … if your name doesn’t shout exactly what you do, you have the challenge of, one, getting people to even know you exist and, two, getting them to understand what it is you do,” he adds. “I think that’s the position we’re in right now.”