Mission Accomplished? Nonprofit Considers Program Closure

December 1, 2010; Source: New York Times | We’ve lost track of the number of stories over the past few years about the many nonprofits being forced to close down, lay off staff, and leave people who depend on their services out in the cold. But what about a decision to close a nonprofit because the people living in the community it has long served are now too wealthy to justify continuing operations? That’s exactly the situation facing the Children’s Aid Society, which is considering closing a school in New York’s Greenwich Village.

The school operates as part of the Phillip Coltoff Center, which according to the New York Times, opened 119 years ago “when the Village was populated by legions of poor children.” Times have changed, and the Children’s Aid Society feels the school’s 1,000 young children – plus older students who take part in extra-curricular programs—come from families who can afford to send them elsewhere, even at a higher cost. “We can’t really justify,” said Richard R. Buery Jr., president and chief executive of the Children’s Aid Society, “the big disconnect between having so many resources focused on serving a population—while clearly a population that needs and deserves the service – that simply has access to more resources and opportunity than a place in the South Bronx, who are in our mission to serve.”

This wouldn’t be the first time that the Children’s Aid Society has closed operations, declaring its work done in a particular community. The Times cites two other schools shut down in past years. “We support communities’ being strong, and then when they’re strong you want to focus on ones that are not,” Buery added.

Although no final decision has been made, parents are not pleased with the possibility of the schools’ closing. One parent told the Times that “it looked like a wake” inside one of the school buildings as news spread. “People were crying,” said Braden Rhetts, whose son currently attends a pre-school program. The society has scheduled a December 16 vote to decide whether to sell the school buildings.—Bruce Trachtenberg

  • Dr. Lynn K. Jones

    I commend the Children’s Aide Society for making such a tough choice and doing the right thing. I would hope that the community leaders would be able to work with CAS to transition the school over to a new management model. With creativity, desire and effort it should be doable. My experience is that organizations that embark on such a journey are stronger in the end and value the opportunity to have had such a change thrust upon them. Using Appreciative Inquiry has been a process that I have found helpful in my role as a nonprofit consultant and coach in times like these.
    Dr. Lynn K. Jones