The Edna McConnell Clark Foundation

The Edna McConnell Clark Foundation

The Edna McConnell Clark Foundation is combining large grants, strategic business planning, rigorous evaluation and capital aggregation to increase the scale and impact of 9 youth development organizations in communities of need across the United States. Their subgrantees are focusing on improving the educational skills and workforce readiness of economically disadvantaged young people as well as helping them to avoid high-risk behavior.

Grantee Information
Federal Awards: 
$10 million in 2010 $10 million in 2011 $10 million in 2012
Geographic Focus: 
National, with an initial emphasis on urban and rural areas in California, Illinois, New York, North Carolina and South Carolina, and Oklahoma, with other geographies to be determined
Collaborating Partners: 
Bridgespan Group; MDRC
Collaborating Funders: 
The Duke Endowment; Tipping Point Community; George Kaiser Family Foundation; Kresge Foundation; Open Society Foundations; JPB Foundation; Hewlett Foundation; Penzance Foundation; Samberg Family Foundation; Starr Foundation; Wallace Foundation; Weingart Foundation; Annie E. Casey Foundation

The Edna McConnell Clark Foundation (EMCF), in collaboration with the Bridgespan Group and MDRC, provide financial, strategic planning and evaluation support to a current portfolio of nine youth development and school support nonprofit organizations working in both urban and rural communities throughout the nation. These subgrantees help youth ages 9-24: 1) improve their educational skills and academic achievement; 2) prepare for the world of work and make the transition to employment and economic independence; and, 3) avoid high-risk behaviors such as criminal activity and teen pregnancy.

Over the last decade, EMCF has implemented a grant making approach that identifies highly-promising nonprofits serving disadvantaged youth from low-income communities and makes large, long-term investments to strengthen their evidence base and replicate and expand them so they can serve more young people. At the heart of this approach is a multi-year business plan that guides an organization’s development. EMCF will donate the cost of formulating such business plans. To help facilitate expansion into new target geographies, co-investors will assist with the identification and selection of nonprofit organizations.

Track Record before Social Innovation Fund Grant:

  • Over the last 10 years, EMCF has invested over $220 million in 33 nonprofits that directly serve youth in all 50 states and Washington D.C. The average grant has increased from $90,000 in 2000 to $2 million today.
  • EMCF has worked with 19 other investors to create a $120 million Growth Capital Aggregation Pilot designed to help three effective nonprofit organizations – Citizen Schools, Nurse-Family Partnerships and Youth Villages – grow to serve 55,000 youth.
  • Other signature investments include the Harlem Children’s Zone, which provides a comprehensive network of programs in New York’s Harlem community that extends from birth through college. One of EMCF’s first partners in youth development, HCZ has expanded from 24 blocks to 100 blocks in Central Harlem and serves over 10,000 youth and individuals annually. An independent evaluation by Harvard University economists found that HCZ’s Promise Academy charter schools significantly reduced the black-white achievement gap in mathematics and English/Language Arts.


  • EMCF received 225 applicants for SIF funding and collaboration (of these, 169 had never had relationships with EMCF before becoming aware of its SIF partnership);
  • EMCF visited and investigated 21 organizations to find the most innovative models of youth development to include in their portfolio and selected nine Social Innovation Fund subgrantees to scale and strengthen to reach more disadvantaged youth throughout the country; and
  • Created the True North Fund to combine federal and philanthropic resources and demonstrate how public and private dollars can be aggregated to help evidence-based programs achieve greater scale and impact.
  • EMCF’s subgrantees have:
    • Served over 100,000 youth across the country,
    • Expanded/replicated operations in Washington, DC and 240 states, and
    • Begun completing evaluations with Reading Partners showing strong results.

Nonprofits Receiving Social Innovation Fund Awards from The Edna McConnell Clark Foundation

BELL (Building Educated Leaders for Life) (Inactive)Gateway to College National Network
The Children's Aid Society -Carrera Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Program (CAS-Carrera)PACE Center for Girls, Inc.
The Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO) (Inactive)Reading Partners
Children's Home Society of North Carolina (CHSNC)SEED Foundation (Inactive)
Children's Institute, Inc (CII)WINGS for Kids
Communities in Schools, NationalYouth Guidance

BELL (Building Educated Leaders for Life)
Dorchester, MA
First year award amount: $2 million

BELL (Building Educated Leaders for Life) provides educational summer and afterschool experiences to help youth in grades K-8 who are falling academically behind gain core academic skills, transition successfully into middle and high school, and improve their attitudes toward school and learning. BELL’s summer program is the only large-scale program with strong empirical proof that it helps raise the academic achievement of lowincome, academically behind youth during the summer months, when economically disadvantaged youth are especially prone to “summer learning loss” that has long-lasting effects on their academic progress.

This investment will help the organization establish its summer program in up to three new states and to expand in five existing states, launch a second evaluation of the effectiveness of its summer program to broaden its evidence base, and strengthen its business development capacity to support and sustain future growth. With this investment, BELL is developing plans to serve 18,500-21,500 youth in its summer program between 2012 and 2014. A scenario-based growth plan will finalize these projections in June 2011. Rigorous evaluation completed by Mathematica and the Urban Institute in 2006 proved that BELL’s summer program has a positive and statistically significant impact on reading achievement over the summer months, reducing summer learning loss for low-income, academically behind students. It is pursuing a follow-up evaluation to test for longer-term effects throughout the school year, and evaluate its program across multiple, geographically diverse sites.

The Children's Aid Society -Carrera Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Program (CAS-Carrera)
New York, NY
First year award amount: $1.5 million

The Carrera Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Program (CAS-Carrera), a program of the Children’s Aid Society, is an evidence-based pregnancy prevention model that helps young people avoid becoming parents during the second decade of their lives. Its model is grounded in the belief that young people are “at promise,” not “at risk.” Founded in 1984 by Dr. Michael Carrera, this holistic, “above the waist” program engages young people year-round, beginning in the fifth or sixth grade, and continues through graduation from high school and beyond. The program is currently delivered in two modes: a proven afterschool model and an innovative adaptation of the afterschool model that is integrated into the school day. CAS-Carrera is one of very few pregnancy prevention programs in the country with top tier evidence of its effectiveness as recognized by the Coalition for Evidence-Based Policy. A randomized controlled trial evaluation of the afterschool model, conducted by Philliber Research Associates, showed statistically significant outcomes on teen pregnancy, academic achievement, work experience and health care utilization. With this investment, CAS-Carrera will create a National Accreditation and Training Center to provide technical assistance to local organizations replicating its afterschool program in up to eight states; establish its inschool program at sites in Oklahoma and, potentially, three additional states; and conduct a quasi-experimental evaluation by Philliber Research Associates of its integrated in-school model. CAS– Carrera is developing plans to serve 10,000-11,000 youth in its programs in the states identified between 2012 and 2014. A scenario-based growth plan will finalize these projections in June 2011.

The Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO)
New York, NY
First year award amount: $2.25 million

The Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO) helps meet the employment needs of people with criminal convictions at their most vulnerable point—soon after conviction or upon release from incarceration—so they are less likely to re-offend and more likely to build a positive foundation for themselves and their families. A third of current participants are 18-24 and disproportionately minority and poor—a population with great needs and facing great obstacles that seldom receives assistance. CEO’s program is one of very few proven to reduce recidivism among youth recently released from prison; a MDRC random assignment study found it significantly reduced recidivism for three years following enrollment—an outcome described by evaluators as “rare.” With this investment, CEO plans to establish new sites in California and Oklahoma. It will replicate its model to serve youth ages 18-24 in two California communities, currently identified as San Diego and Fresno, and support the establishment of its program in Oklahoma with an emphasis on providing employment support to women with histories of substance abuse. This investment will also significantly expand the numbers of youth served in upstate New York. CEO is developing plans to serve 850-900 young people in its CA, OK and upstate NY programs between 2012 and 2014. CEO will conduct a second randomized controlled trial evaluation to build on the first study and focus on upstate New York sites and study whether improvements the organization has made to job retention services have an impact on long-term employment outcomes.

Children's Home Society of North Carolina (CHSNC)
Greensboro, NC
First year award amount: $2 million

CHS provides a range of services to youth, with an emphasis on child welfare. This investment will focus on the expansion of two unique programs with the potential to produce transformative impacts: the Family Finding and Wise Guys programs. The first is an intensive intervention to identify and engage family members and other resources in the lives of youth who are in or aging out of foster care. Family Finding staff are specially trained, carry small caseloads (about five) and spend three to four months working with each youth. Wise Guys is a 12-session teen pregnancy prevention program that informs middle-school males about appropriate sexual behavior, including abstinence and contraception, as well as communication and healthy relationships. CHS is currently participating in a random assignment evaluation, conducted by Child Trends, to determine the impacts of Family Finding services on youth in foster care, with initial results expected in 2012. A random assignment study of the Wise Guys program, conducted by the University of North Carolina-Greensboro, found male participants had greater knowledge of sex and reproductive biology and STD transmission, and higher rates of desirable attitudes toward sex and appropriate sexual behavior. With this investment, CHSNC plans to serve 350-500 youth aged 9-24 in by its Family Finding program, and 600 to 1,100 young people with its Wise Guys program between 2012 and 2014. A scenario-based growth plan will finalize these projections in June 2011.

Children's Institute, Inc (CII)
Los Angeles, CA
First year award amount: $2 million

First year award amount: $2 million Children’s Institute Inc (CII) is a multiservice organization serving children, youth and families involved in the foster care and juvenile justice systems. It helps very troubled youth, typically involved in foster care or the juvenile justice system, improve their life prospects and avoid gang involvement. CII’s clinical services are the evidence-based programs most widely used by the organization and serve the most youth ages 9-24; these programs have independently been shown to reduce gang involvement, raise academic performance, improve school attendance, and promote family reunification and preservation. With this investment, CII will expand its operations to serve 4,000 to 6,000 youth aged 9-24 (between 2012 and 2014) at its new Otis Booth campus in Central Los Angeles and its site in Watts, two of the poorest, most isolated urban communities in the country. The organization also plans to undertake an independent, rigorous evaluation of its evidence-based programs over the next three years. Details of the evaluation plan will be finalized in June 2011 when scenario-based growth planning is complete. This evaluation provides an opportunity to explore how a multiservice organization can best build an evidence base for the effectiveness of its multiple programs.

Communities in Schools, National
Arlington, VA
First year award amount: $2.25 million

Communities in Schools (CIS), which serves economically disadvantaged students in grades K-12 who are at greatest risk of dropping out of school, currently works in 3,400 schools in 25 states and Washington, DC. At each participating school, a CIS coordinator develops strategic partnerships with local providers to offer Level I services to the entire student body, and arranges more intensive case management support, or Level II services, for the 5 to 10 percent of students identified as most likely to fall behind academically or drop out. CIS has been identified as one of the nation’s leading dropout prevention programs. ICF International recently completed a multipart, five-year evaluation of the CIS program that included a quasiexperimental school-level study and three youth-level randomized controlled trials conducted in Jacksonville, Austin and Wichita, which yielded positive findings with regard to grades and attendance, and indicates the program, when implemented with high fidelity (with its Level II services), is effective at reducing dropouts. With this investment, CIS is developing plans to replicate its model in 41 of the highest-need high schools, 16 middle schools, and nine elementary schools in North Carolina, South Carolina and California. In all, CIS plans to reach an estimated 149,000 students in these three states, including 14,000 who will receive Level II services. A scenario-based growth plan will finalize these projections in June 2011. In addition, CIS will strengthen key internal capacities, enhance its fidelity management system, and improve the overall quality of programs across the entire CIS network, so the organization can pursue even greater scale in the future. The organization is also committed to further evaluation to advance its level of evidence and is planning additional research to secure more definitive evidence of its effectiveness; details of further evaluation plans will be finalized in June when its scenario-based growth plan is finalized.

Gateway to College National Network
Portland, OR
First year award amount: $2 million

Gateway to College National Network works with young people in 16 states to implement the Gateway to College (GtC) model, an alternative education program that helps students who have dropped out of high school, or are at high risk of dropping out, earn a diploma while also earning college credits. All GtC classes are taught on college campuses, helping participants work towards earning high school diplomas and associate’s degrees. GtCNN is the premier organization meeting the national challenge of reengaging disconnected youth with education, with promising results to date in helping young people re-engage academically after dropping out. It will launch a random assignment study conducted by MDRC in 2012. The evaluation is expected to generate interim results within a year after enrollment on intermediate outcomes such as credits earned and school attendance, and long-term results by 2015, including the program’s effect on high school graduation and post-secondary credentials. With this investment, GtCNN is developing plans to establish up to 50 new sites. Potential sites for replication include communities of need in California and North and South Carolina—geographical priorities for EMCF’s SIF portfolio—and six other states, serving 2,900-3,800 young people in these states between 2012 and 2014. A scenario-based growth plan will finalize these projections in June 2011.

Reading Partners
Oakland, CA
First year award amount: $2 million

Reading Partners (RP) helps elementary school students who are six to 30 months behind in reading catch up to their peers and become proficient in 37 schools throughout California and in Washington DC. Developed in partnership with Stanford University, RP’s customized balanced-literacy curriculum is specifically designed for volunteer tutors and designed to support the highest-need students identified by reading assessments. Improving reading skills in elementary school is of vital importance because students arriving in middle school already behind are in danger of failing or eventually dropping out. Narrowing the academic achievement gap between economically disadvantaged minority children and affluent white children is one of the nation’s greatest and most persistent challenges, and RP's model is a promising way to meet it. A randomized controlled trial evaluation, internally conducted under the auspices of Deborah Stipek at the Stanford School of Education, is currently underway. Preliminary analyses show that RP students significantly outperform peers in the same classroom, and standardized assessments show that 89 percent of RP students measurably accelerate their progress in reading, gaining on average an entire grade level in reading skills for every 25 hours in the program. With this investment, Reading Partners is developing plans to expand in up to five states and serve 6,000-8,000 youth between 2012 and 2014, including 3,900 to 5,200 young people who are within EMCF’s 9-24 age range. A scenario-based growth plan will finalize these projections in June 2011.

SEED Foundation
Washington, DC
First year award amount: $2 million

The SEED Foundation opens and supports public boarding schools for seriously disadvantaged students who are highly unlikely to succeed in a traditional public school setting and would benefit greatly from a 24houra-day learning environment. The schools, which start in middle school and extend through high school (and include post-secondary support), combine a rigorous college-prep academic curriculum with youth development activities and intensive social supports in the afterschool hours to provide comprehensive services that help young people improve their life trajectories by succeeding in school and pursuing post-secondary educational opportunities. SEED has the potential to serve as an innovative model for how to support youth facing serious challenges so they are able to graduate from high school and, ultimately, college. A study completed by Roland Fryer of Harvard University analyzed results from the random assignment of youth to the SEED school in Washington DC in 2007 and 2008 and found that the school significantly increased students’ standardized test scores in reading and math, compared to youth who attended other schools, with much larger effects for girls than for boys. With this investment, SEED is developing plans to establish in 2-4 new schools in different states across the country, serving 600-800 additional youth between 2012 and 2014, and undertake further rigorous evaluation of current and new schools to expand its evidence base. It will solidify its evaluation plans in the next three months when its scenariobased growth plan is finalized in June 2011.

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