Last Look: Interview With Lindsey Jenkins-Stark, Vice President of Iridescent
"Iridescent's mission is to foster curiosity, confidence and a love for science and engineering in underprivileged students," Vice President Lindsey Jenkins-Stark explains. "Our approach is to use a three-pronged strategy of teaching about cutting-edge science, using powerful mentors and enlisting strong parental involvement. Thus we provide rich, immersive, self-directed, inquiry-based experiences for families.
"These learning experiences are designed by engineers who lead five-week courses for the families at the school sites in the evenings," she says. "Topics illustrate the real-world applications of science concepts and range from the physics of MRI to bird flight aerodynamics."
Iridescent started operations in August 2006. Since then, it has trained 185 engineers who have conducted 120 courses reaching 4,000 underserved children and parents at 74 sites in three cities. Three main areas of impact have been:
1. Underserved students and families: Iridescent has provided 15,260 student-contact hours and 1,400 parent-contact hours. It also has developed a Parent Leadership Program.
2. Engineers: The organization has trained 155 engineers and 30 student engineers.
3. Science education: It has developed a 16-week training program and a lesson-planning template that enables engineers to easily convey complex ideas to the public. This template has enabled Iridescent to develop curriculum for 11 cutting-edge science topics.
Here, we talk with Jenkins-Stark about the organization and its fundraising strategies and challenges.
FundRaising Success: How do you fund your mission?
Lindsey Jenkins-Stark: Iridescent uses partner schools, the University of Southern California, fundraisers and grants for funding.
FS: What are the biggest challenges your organization faces as far as fundraising is concerned? How do you overcome them?
LJS: The biggest challenge Iridescent faces in fundraising is being able to raise adequate salary funds. In order to overcome this challenge, all employees are responsible for dedicating some time to fundraising.
FS: Do you foresee any big changes in the way you reach potential donors and other supporters in the near future?
LJS: We are taking a more flexible outlook on fundraising in the current economy. We are focusing on smaller grant opportunities that have a higher funding percentage. We are also working to refine earned-income strategies in order to lessen our reliance on grants and foundations.
FS: How would you describe your fundraising philosophy?
LJS: Our fundraising philosophy could be described as, "If at first you don't succeed, try at least once more." We believe it is difficult to predict funding outcomes for nonprofits, especially in the current economic environment. Thus we believe that in order to identify and refine successful funding strategies, it is important to attempt several strategies more than once.
FS: How do you reach out to supporters and potential supporters in ways other than purely fundraising? Are you engaged with social-media sites like MySpace, Facebook, etc., and online social networking?
LJS: Iridescent reaches out to supporters via several social-networking avenues. Our online social networking includes but is not limited to Facebook, VolunteerMatch, Idealist.org, University Park Family (http://tinyurl.com/m2nl9a), our blog (IridescentLearning.blogspot.com) and our site, on which we sell T-shirts with our lessons incorporated into the design.
FS: Can you describe a recent successful fundraising effort?
LJS: In order for schools to fund our program, we offer a variety of fundraising options including selling our T-shirts. Schools use the T-shirt sale as a way of paying for the program at their schools. Not only does it allow us to conduct programs at underserved schools and communities, but it also increases our visibility in the community.
FS: Any major difficulties or setbacks you've faced along the way? Things you would do differently with your fundraising?
LJS: As stated, we have experienced a change in grant funding as a result of the current economic environment. As a result, we have changed our grant-writing processes. We would really like to further explore more refined streams of earned income. We hope to focus more on our earned-income strategies this coming year.
Joe Boland is copy editor and staff writer for the Target Marketing Group at FS’ parent company, NAPCO. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org