Strategy + Planning: Jacob A. Riis Neighborhood Settlement

The Challenge

The Riis Settlement serves more than 20,000 people each year in western Queens, one of the most diverse urban areas in the country. Riis Settlement operates a senior center and after-school programs for youths, offers legal assistance and ESOL classes for immigrants, and provides adult education as well as voter education. Riis Settlement needed outside help to bolster its capacity to achieve results through rigorous program planning and mission-focused data-tracking systems across its primary program areas of youth development and immigrant and senior services.

What We Did

CRE engaged a comprehensive cross-section of agency staff and board members in a series of intensive meetings, coaching sessions, and working groups. We helped Riis Settlement clarify its mission, set goals for major program areas, and identify measurable objectives for each goal. This work helped it distinguish core programs from more peripheral programs in order to direct resources where they are most needed. The final part of our engagement involved identifying outcomes for each key target population, creating client-centered indicators to recognize success in each outcome area, and defining the data that Riis Settlement needed to collect to learn from its clients and grow sustainably.

Impact

Riis Settlement’s investment in results-oriented planning has yielded powerful dividends by sharpening its competitive edge in a tough fundraising environment. CRE’s planning services generated new funding for the organization and further enhanced its reputation as a provider of high-quality services to underserved Queens residents of all ages. By streamlining and deepening systems for tracking participant outcomes, Riis Settlement established an organizational culture in which staff members have the knowledge, analytical skills, and commitment to use data for ongoing program improvements. The enhanced coordination and integration across programs increased Riis Settlement’s efficiency and enhanced the organization’s ability to more comprehensively address participants’ needs.

“Riis Settlement has experienced tremendous growth in recent years – to the point where we felt it imperative to really sit down as an agency and carve out a plan for the future that would increase our capacity and ensure sustainable growth going forward. Undergoing the strategic planning process with CRE allowed us to map out a clear and comprehensive five-year strategic plan, and the process itself allowed us as a team to reassess the needs of our participants and surrounding community, reflect on our programmatic offerings to ensure we were successfully meeting those needs, and to identify areas for enhancement. We are moving forward with a clear sense of direction and a renewed focus on those we serve”

- Christopher Hanway, Executive Director, Jacob A. Riis Neighborhood Settlement