THE BLOG
01/16/2013 10:50 am ET Updated Mar 18, 2013

Juma Ventures Is Powered by Pro Bono

Juma Ventures is an innovative youth development program that helps under-resourced youth achieve their dreams of a college education through a mixture of youth employment, financial asset building, and educational support services. Part of what has always made Juma stand out is the business approach they've taken to solve social problems. As CEO Marc Spencer explains, Juma is really about creating an opportunity for these young people to have their first job experience where we can really instill those 'soft skills' around responsibility, accountability and leadership. So it's not about scooping ice cream or serving coffee but really the work ethic and those types of behaviors that are necessary to be successful and transferable to future work opportunities and academic achievement.

Juma focuses on youth career development alongside financial literacy programming and educational support services to help young people develop financial competencies to manage their own behaviors and become self-sufficient while ensuring successful navigation of post-secondary education to complete four-year degrees. "One-hundred percent of our kids are graduating from high school and 85 percent are going on to post-secondary education," Spencer says. All of the work takes place in a case management structure where the youth are given an adult ally that helps them set and achieve goals in those three areas. A secondary goal for youth participants is to develop a mindset of paying it forward once they become successful. By looking at those services that they benefitted from as young people, Juma strives to maintain a sense of community impact in their program graduates that will translate into adulthood.

Juma's business approach to social initiatives has positioned them as experts in terms of developing strong partnerships -- and securing pro bono support. These supports range from work by Harvard Business alumni to develop a three-year business plan to Fortune 500 companies like Gap Inc., which provides professional development workshops and Blackrock, which provides HR support to help Juma codify their recruitment, hiring and onboarding processes.

"And the next wave of these partnerships will include staff to support my executive team on performance coaching and evaluation," Spencer explains. "We've been fortunate to have some of the world's largest firms coming into our agency and delivering those types of opportunities."
With the support of these partnerships and pro bono services, since 2006 Juma has grown from one location in San Francisco, serving about 80 young people annually to 5 cities (with an office in Seattle set to become their 6th in early 2013) serving over 1,100 annually. Earned income has grown from a few hundred thousand dollars to close to $2 million, and they've been able to really replicate outcomes in each new location.

Pro bono support covers about $500,000 of Juma's budget. As Spencer describes it, Juma is not only good at building these relationships, but they're real believers. "It's not only about saving cost," he says, "but the level of expertise that we're getting. We couldn't afford it otherwise, and it gives us a chance to really grow our network. After we get the support from these folks, and we send out our year-end appeals, they become donors on top of it. They tell their friends and we get unsolicited donations from folks because they've fallen in love with the mission of the agency and want to support it financially."

Juma continues expanding and has seen increased support from their business partners, including their old friends at Gap Inc., this time providing IT specialists to upgrade to Cloud-based software. Spencer attributes no small part of this to his team's ability to build lasting relationships with companies and with the pro bono consultants they provide. "It's amazing that they're not sick of doing the same thing they do in their day job. They're actually thinking that they get to be a part of our legacy -- they put our HR functions together or build our website. It's those tangible results of pro bono work that get us all really excited."

Juma Ventures is a featured organization in our Powered by Pro Bono Nonprofit Leadership Series, highlighting organizations that maximize their impact by leveraging pro bono resources. The series celebrates the launch of Taproot's new book and program, Powered by Pro Bono.

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