Nonprofits & Foundations

We’ve developed strategic plans for leading nonprofits and foundations that work to improve educational outcomes in cities all across the U.S. We’re deeply invested in the health and success of these organizations and the local communities they help.

Our many experiences working with nonprofits and foundations will allow you to hit the ground running and add significant value early on in your project.

View our recent projects below and be sure to visit our newsroom for updates!

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Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

The Gates Foundation requested a comprehensive analysis of the national financial aid landscape to inform their portfolio strategy. Safal worked with FSG to conduct primary and secondary research, including interviews with experts and focus groups with students. At the conclusion of the project, Safal synthesized its findings into a briefing paper to inform the field and presented research and recommendations to the Gates post-secondary success team.

On our work with the foundation, we:

  • Analyzed data and findings to identify trends, gaps and opportunities for the field to make an impact
  • Evaluated and synthesized findings into a briefing paper to inform the field
  • Provided technical expertise and presented research and recommendations to the Gates post-secondary success team

George W. Bush Institute

The George W. Bush Institute engaged Safal to help them create a road map for developing online training modules aimed at building principals’ skills as school leaders and managers of talent. The planning/feasibility phase was funded by the Gates Foundation, and one of the deliverables was a concept proposal to be taken to Gates and others for the implementation phase. We worked with the client to build out the initial concept, identify the target audience and design the program.

John & Laura Arnold Foundation

We partnered with the Laura & John Arnold Foundation to conduct an assessment of the impact of its investments in teacher evaluation and compensation innovation programs in New York, Houston, Aldine, TX, and Washington, D.C. public schools. We were brought on to conduct extensive primary and secondary research with a view to understanding design choices made by the districts as well as the overall impact on teacher performance and student outcomes.

Teach For America

On this project, we crafted a regional vision and a strategic plan guiding Teach For America‘s investments over several years.

Kern Family Foundation

America Achieves, backed by the Kern Family Foundation, supported an initiative to pilot “PISA for Schools” for international bench-marking of schools and local systems. We worked closely with the project team, Kern, and OECD to analyze the assessment environment, determine a plan, and facilitate discussions and alignment among the Steering Committee. Key accomplishments included:

  • Developed a detailed project plan for the pilot, outlining key tasks, timelines and allocating resources
  • Authored a briefing memo outlining the short-term and long-term goals of the project and identifying critical requirements, risk factors and mitigating strategies
  • Provided support for Steering Committee meetings and for drafting a proposal that garnered project funding

Greater Houston Community Foundation

Safal has successfully completed multiple projects for Greater Houston Community Foundation including the following:

  • LEAP Evaluation: Safal assisted GHCF in conducting a program evaluation for its Learn Engage Advance Persevere (LEAP) collaborative. The LEAP program aims to address the needs of middle school students most at-risk of dropping out of school. Safal synthesized a formative qualitative and quantitative assessment of the initiative with a view of identifying early findings or lessons that may necessitate a fine-tuning of the program.
  • Blended Learning (BL) Study: GHCF requested research and analysis on the impact of the extended learning program to inform their giving decisions. We conducted primary research on existing extended learning programs and used regression models to determine program impact on student performance. We also authored a report to inform the school and donor regarding program implementation and outcomes.
  • KIPP Courage Blended Learning Evaluation: The KIPP Courage Blended Learning (BL) Program launched in 2012 to provide technology-driven and differentiated instruction to small groups of students in order to meet the needs of all individual learners. Having successfully funded and rolled out the program, the Greater Houston Community Foundation Strategic Education Fund (GHCF SEF) contracted Safal to evaluate the impact of the blended learning model on student learning, teacher retention rates and cost structures.

Educate Texas

Educate Texas, a major force for education reform in Texas, wanted to look back and pinpoint lessons learned from the past ten years of building and scaling its two signature models, Early College High School (ECHS) and T-STEM Academies. To do so, we worked with them to conduct and synthesize in-depth interviews with internal and external stakeholders, as well as scan secondary sources and program documentation.

We helped Educate Texas tell its story by capturing its institutional history and documenting the knowledge and experience from those who have designed, scaled, funded, and implemented ECHS and T-STEM across Texas.

Education Pioneers

Education Pioneers brought us on  for a strategic planning project to redesign its placement process, making it more efficient and effective. We identified bottlenecks and pain points, internalized the organization’s strategic priorities and bench-marked processes against similar organizations.

Key accomplishments included:

  • Identified opportunities and implemented improvements to increase staff productivity by an estimated 30% and reduce stress
  • Custom designed, developed, tested and implemented an innovative web-based matching tool, enabling easier and more effective matching between Fellows and Partners

Greater Texas Foundation

Greater Texas Foundation worked with us to develop a strategic plan for their scholarship program to increase their impact on the educational outcomes of vulnerable youth in Texas. We partnered with FSG and the foundation to conduct extensive research on the scholarship landscape in the state and identify unmet needs.

Based on our research and the foundation’s vision, we developed recommendations for an effective scholarship program, which led to the launch of the foundation’s signature scholarship program. We also co-authored a research report, “Dollars for Degrees,” on the role of aid and scholarships in post-secondary completion.

Families Empowered

Families Empowered wanted to develop a strategic plan to sharpen its focus on wait-list families and guide decision making. We interviewed a cross section of internal and external stakeholders with a view to identifying key strategic questions and options facing the organization and conducted an employee climate survey to gauge morale.

Project Lead The Way

Project Lead the Way (PLTW) is the leading provider of rigorous and innovative Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics (STEM) education curricular programs used in U.S. middle and high schools. PLTW contracted Safal to put better performance management and data systems in place to enable the organization to use data strategically to manage and improve operations.

Key accomplishments included:

  • Creating a data dashboard for assessing the impact of PLTW programs, including how PLTW students were performing versus non-program students and tracking how many students were taking the MAPP assessment
  • Creating organizational data dashboards designed to increase visibility into current PLTW performance, improve access to key financial, operations and marketing data and enhance PLTW’s strategic decision making
  • Implementing an order management system to enable over 4,000 schools across the country to order components for implementing various PLTW engineering and biomedical courses

Houston A+

We worked closely with Houston A+ as they redefined strategy and reinvented themselves as a nonprofit that engages with middle schools to enable post-secondary success. We designed and built many of the organization’s programs, continuously helping to build the team and implement systems to support sustainable growth.

A few of our milestones included:

  • Helping design and launch the Challenge Network, including conceptualizing the program, designing a robust evaluation system, engaging the Board, developing a financial plan and a funding strategy (including grant proposals), recruiting the team, and working with districts to ensure participation. The initiative is already showing a significant increase in students on track to be college ready.
  • Developing a scaling strategy and defined a financial model and an organizational structure to enable sustainable growth.
  • Leading the design team on the mobile school initiative for an innovative charter school to be housed in the Museum District.

Urban Teachers

Urban Teacher Center is an education focused nonprofit that trains teachers committed to measurable results. Based on its initial successes, their team was interested in expanding its operations in scale and scope. Urban Teachers retained Safal to recommend a comprehensive three-year technology strategy to support their operations as they scaled up their teacher preparation programs. We conducted a detailed organization-wide assessment to gather and define requirements, conducted vendor interviews to understand current market offerings, and developed metrics and processes to measure progress against goals.

Based on a needs assessment, we recommended a comprehensive approach and implementation plan, including a vendor assessment, estimated budgets, and a timeline for implementation that delineated immediate priorities from long term ones. We also assessed the capacity of their internal IT team and made recommendations on how the capacity of the team could be augmented, either internally or via partial outsourcing.