Year Up is a national nonprofit organization that works to empower low-income, urban young adults to go from poverty to a professional career in one year. Inspired by his experience as a Big Brother in New York City, Gerald Chertavian founded Year Up in 2000. Today, Year Up is one of the most successful nonprofits in the U.S.; they've worked with over 6,000 young people nationwide, and as of early 2013, will have sites in 11 cities. They also produce successful outcomes (84 percent of program graduates are working or in school full-time within four months of graduation), operate with a staff of over 300 people and an annual budget of over $40 million, and have twice been voted one of the top 15 nonprofits to work for in the U.S.
Gerald's secret, at least in part, lies in his ability to harness pro bono resources from the private sector. "Pro bono played a significant role in the early years," Gerald reflected. "Anyone who has been in the nonprofit sector knows that when you start up, you are 'begging, borrowing and stealing' to try and engage people who are willing to help you out."
Year Up's first foray into pro bono came from Wilmer Hale, now one of three law firms that provide the organization with the critical analysis necessary to mitigate risk and grow an operation. But Gerald didn't stop there. As he said "Microsoft, IBM and Salesforce have provided support with hardware and applications, while everything from sexual harassment training to HR policy development has come from Latham & Watkins and Goodwin Proctor, the latter of which loaned us four employees for a whole year."
Gerald sets the gold standard in terms of pro bono resource management. It has been deeply engrained as part of the operating structure at Year Up since Alta Communications provided the start-up space and administrative support needed to kick off the initial venture. Over the years, Gerald has successfully locked in pro bono support from New Profit and Monitor Group -- whose four strategic planning processes have helped shape it into the organization it is today -- along with countless videographers, photographers and event planners who facilitate marketing events with Year Up's corporate partners.
"I've never been afraid to make a polite ask to someone. I ran a for-profit business for a number of years and I was often interested in how we exercised our social responsibility. The millennial generation and a growing number of employees are looking for more than just a paycheck. If a nonprofit could make that easy for me, they are doing me a favor. It's not just a one-way value exchange; it is an internal morale building opportunity."
Pro bono resources are a powerful tool in the nonprofit leader's arsenal. Though they are sometimes seen as tools for smaller nonprofits -- those that can't afford to pay -- pro bono services actually play a significant role in some of the nation's greatest success stories. Year Up is Powered by Pro Bono. Are you?
Year Up is a featured organization on 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.