NPI Evaluation of Aim High


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NPI's independent assessment of Aim High from

Over the past 26 years, Aim High has grown from 50 students and 10 teachers at one school to over 1,200 students and 400 faculty members at 13 campuses. This extraordinary growth has been a product of a proven summer school model that improves educational performance and also instills a passion for learning that motivates participants to attend college and pursue successful careers, primarily in education or public service.

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NPI Evaluation of Aim High

  1. 1. NONPROFIT INVESTORINDEPENDENT RESEARCH FOR PHILANTHROPYAim High SUMMARY Aim High is the largest summer program provider in the Bay Area,Nonprofit Investor Rating: operating programs in San Francisco, Oakland, Marin County and SanBUY Mateo County. Over its 26 year history, Aim High has educated over 8,000 low-income middle-school youth.Mission Statement STRENGTHSProvide high-need urban youth with freeaccess to challenging, innovative and highly ▲ Diversified funding base. Aim High receives its funding from asupportive educational programs, most wide variety of sources, minimizing unique risk from any single donor.notably through an exemplary summer school ▲ Low cost per beneficiary. Fully-burdened expenses per studentprogram. are only ~$2,000 for the entire summer program, and the program is free of charge to all students.Financial Overview ▲ Demonstrated, measureable results on educational outcomes.$ in MM, Fiscal Year Ended August 31, 97% of Aim High alumni graduate high school on time and 95% enroll 2009 2010 2011 in college, well above state averages of 74% and 56%, respectively.Revenue and Support $2.0 $2.3 $2.7 ▲ Positive long-term impact on participants. Roughly 25% of AimOperating Expenses $2.1 $2.2 $2.6 High teachers are alumni of the program, and many go on to pursue full-time careers in education and public service.% of Total: Program Services 78.7% 77.7% 77.1% ▲ Proven senior leadership and talented staff with a clear G&A 6.8% 7.8% 7.8% understanding of program mission and model. Executive Director Fundraising 14.4% 14.5% 15.1% Alec Lee founded Aim High in 1986 and has strategically guided Aim High through a long period of consistent growth.Year Founded: 1986 CAUTIONSContact DetailsAim High ● Site identification risk. Aim High’s future growth is contingent on2030 Harrison St., 3rd Floor properly identifying sites and communities where the proven modelSan Francisco, CA 94110 can roll-out successfully. One Oakland site was closed in 2010.(415) 551-2333 ● Macro funding risk. Aim High receives very little public support and instead relies on support from many foundations and individuals.EIN: 94-3296338 A systemic economic downturn could result in an ‘across-the-board’Analyst: John Goldston reduction in donations from a majority of its donor base.Peer Review: Jonathan Tran, Kent Chao RECOMMENDATION: BUYPublication Date Over the past 26 years, Aim High has grown from 50 students and 10May 22, 2012 teachers at one school to over 1,200 students and 400 faculty members at 13 campuses. This extraordinary growth has been a product of a proven summer school model that improves educational performance and also instills a passion for learning that motivates participants to attend college and pursue successful careers, primarily in education or public service. Nonprofit Investor Research |
  2. 2. OVERVIEW OF AIM HIGH’S ACTIVITIESAddressable ProblemStudies have shown that students are susceptible to falling behind academically during the summertime if not engagedin summer activities. These achievement gaps can develop at a young age, and 27% of California dropouts occur before9th grade. Successful transition into high school is a big predictor of success during remaining high school years andultimately matriculation into college. As a result of ongoing federal and state budget cuts, summer school has beeneliminated at numerous Bay Area middle schools – Aim High addresses this need for summer programs in underservedcommunities where these opportunities are not otherwise available.Summer School ProgramAim High’s primary service is a free five-week summer learning program that runs from 8:15am – 3:15pm each day. Thesummer program combines academic classes with hands-on experiential activities and arts, cultural and athletic events,creating many opportunities for educational achievement and personal development. A core goal of the summerprogram (and a key part of Aim High’s mission) is to “inspire a life-long love of learning and instill a sense of community,opportunity and respect so that students are prepared for success in school and life.” The program offers a highlypersonalized learning experience, with a current student-to-teacher ratio of 4:1, significantly lower than the 8:1 leveljust several years ago. Aim High Students typically join after the 5th or 6th grade, and 80% remain with Aim High eachsummer until they graduate from middle school. On average, the total cost to put a student through three years ofsummer programs is $6,000.The student demographic served by Aim High’s summer programs has the following characteristics: • 100% middle school students • 91% attend public schools • 39% Latino, 38% Asian, 14% Black, 7% Other, 2% Caucasian • 70%+ low-income or poverty households • 60% primary language at home not English • 66% first-generation college graduates to beThe summer school program employs a three-tiered teaching model which brings together experienced and noviceeducators. Lead teachers, teaching assistants (TAs) and interns work together as a team to develop and execute lessonplans, and a site’s operations are overseen by 1-3 site directors responsible for coordinating the entire day. Leadteachers are career educators with 4+ years of real-world experience teaching in the classroom. In addition to educatingprogram participants, they act as powerful mentors for the TAs and interns, many of whom are high school or collegestudents. Through this model, Aim High creates summer job opportunities for aspiring young adults with an interest in acareer in education.Aim High also offers an Environmental Home Program for graduating 9th graders. The program provides students withthe opportunity to learn about protecting the environment while teaching leadership and teamwork skills through acombination of park restoration projects and outdoor recreational activities. The program is the result of a partnershipbetween the Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA), the National Parks Conservancy, East Bay Regional Parksand San Mateo County Parks. More broadly, Aim High continues to enhance its summer school curriculum throughpartnerships with other youth-serving non-profits and community organizations. In 2011, it partnered with localorganizations including Spark, Tools for Peace, the First Tee and the Exploratorium to provide students with a diversearray of learning experiences. Aim High| Nonprofit Investor Research 2
  3. 3. Student Center and Alumni ResourcesA new initiative launched in 2006, the Student Center was set up to provide support services for Aim High graduates asthey proceed through high school and prepare for college. Services include after-school tutoring, college counseling,financial aid workshops and social activities.PROGRAM RESULTS AND EFFECTIVENESSGrowth in Population ServedAim High has experienced terrific growth since it began as a one school operation with 50 students and 10 teachers backin 1986. Today, Aim High serves 1,200+ students each summer at thirteen summer program campuses, and over its 26year history, more than 8,000 unique students have participated in an Aim High program. # of Students Served 1,400 1,238 1,200 1,081 1,071 1,023 1,000 950 776 800 674 680 620 648 600 510 550 490 430 410 356 400 280 290 295 250 200 200 100 140 48 75 90 0 1986 1987 1988 1989 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011While Aim High has grown tremendously, it is worth noting that the leadership team has historically employed acarefully calculated growth strategy to ensure the quality of its programs is maintained. Management appears to have aclear understanding that the organization cannot afford to grow faster than the funding that supports it, and thismethodical approach to growth is evident in the latest five-year strategic plan, where Aim High conservatively projectsto add 100 students and one facility to its summer program each year.Extremely Positive Alumni Feedback, Retention and Career PlacementStudents that have gone through the Aim High program speak glowingly about their experiences, and many choose tocome back as TAs and interns to teach a summer program. In 2011, 28% of the 411 total teachers employed wereformer Aim High graduates. Alumni cite Aim High as a driving force in shaping their life and getting them on the righttrack as they entered high school. Anecdotes detailing where some of Aim High’s successful participants have ended uptoday can be found in the annual reports and other Aim High marketing material.Tangible Success Stories and Data-Supported, Observable ResultsAim High has consistently helped kids improve academically, particularly in critical areas like math. In 2011, over 93% ofstudents reported significant improvement in their math skills, confirmed by an average pre-algebra test score gain of21% for 8th and 9th graders after having taken Aim High summer classes. On-time high school graduation rates (97%) andcollege enrollment rates (95%) for Aim High participants are also well above national and state averages (74% and 56%,respectively). These results have improved over the last several years as Aim High has increased teacher hiring at afaster rate than adding students, resulting in a more suitable teacher-to-student ratio for personalized learning. Aim High| Nonprofit Investor Research 3
  4. 4. Teacher Development Opportunities Provide Mutually Beneficial ExperienceTraditionally between 70-90 Aim High graduates are employed as lead teachers, TAs and interns each year. In thiscapacity, the summer program provides a great stepping stone for former participants-turned-career educators to learnfrom other experienced teachers and hone their classroom leadership skills. Through the unique Aim High teachingmodel, certain best practices are developed which can be leveraged by all educators, allowing even skilled teachers tocontinue to innovate and explore new curriculum.For those interested in seeing the programs in action and viewing the results firsthand, Aim High offers visiting days at itvarious sites. The summer schedule is available at High has shown a commitment to transparency – the most recent annual report is available on the non-profit’swebsite and prior years’ reports are available upon request. Form 990s through the year ended 8/31/10 are availableon The financial information presented in the reports is clear and there are no majorinconsistencies to report. Aim High has a finance committee responsible for the oversight of the financial statementsand the selection of an independent accountant. The most recent Form 990 was audited by Lautze & Lautze, and the2011 annual report was reviewed by Armanino McKenna LLP.Aim High is also very transparent with its strategic plan, which provides significant insight for donors into what theirfuture donations will be used for. The most recent five-year strategic plan was published in Fall 2011 and is available onAim High’s website. More detail is provided on pages 6-7 of this report.FINANCIAL OVERVIEWREVENUE Funding Mix - FY11 (Sept 2010 - Aug. 2011) ($USD)Aim High has achieved impressive top-lineannual revenue growth of 15% since 2009, with $104,889foundations and individuals accounting for $262,540 4% 10%about 70% of the total funding historically. FoundationPublic funding, while only 15-20% of Aim High’s $425,055 $1,122,530 Individualoverall annual income, has been consistent and 16% 42% Publicgrowing since 2009, a testament to the value Corporatethat people see in the Aim High educational Partnersexperience. As federal, state and local budgetsare under increasing pressure, more public $750,734funds are being channeled into Aim High’s 28%summer programs.Aim High does not have an endowment, and thus must raise money for its operating costs each year. The risksassociated with Aim High’s diverse funding sources have yet to seriously inhibit the company from growing, butindividual donations declined by 19% in 2010 and corporate donations declined by 22% in 2011. A key diligence item forfurther evaluation is how Aim High seeks out its funding, and whether these recent declines were a result of changes inthe individual donors’ financial situation or a result of a less effective fundraising campaign by Aim High. Aim High| Nonprofit Investor Research 4
  5. 5. EXPENSESAim High targets an all-in total expense of $2,000 per student for each one year summer program, and they have beenvery successful at operating near this rate for the past several years. In 2011, the cost per student crept up above$2,100 – it will be important to track where this number trends in the projection period, as it will impact the number ofstudents Aim High is ultimately able to serve.Program expenses totaled $2.0mm in 2011, accounting for 77% of total expenses. Aim High is explicit on its websiteabout how donor money is allocated to specific program expenses, which include the 400+ teacher salaries. The salariesfor each level of teacher are disclosed on the website as follows: lead teachers receive a $4,000 salary for the summer,and $1,000 covers a stipend for one high school-aged teaching assistant or intern. Other major program expensesinclude educational supplies, textbooks, food, and field trip transportation costs for the students. On a per site basis,these program expenses average to roughly $100,000 (60% of total program expense) for teacher salaries and $65,000(40%) for all other program expenses.G&A accounted for roughly 8% of total expenses on a GAAP basis. An Aim High compensation committee studycomparing Aim High employee salaries against employees at other non-profits of similar size and function confirmedthat Aim High management is paid in-line with the industry norm. Given how instrumental Executive Director Alec Leehas been for the company’s growth, the value he adds to Aim High and the fact that he remains the face of theorganization, his compensation at ~$120,000 per year is defensible.Development accounted for ~15% of total expenses in 2011, which is higher than most organizations, but not surprisingin this case given Aim High’s diverse funding base. Almost 30% of donations come from individuals and those aretraditionally more expensive donations to acquire, usually through hosting fundraising events and galas.Aim High runs a lean operation given its operating circumstances and the lack of an endowment. Total Expense Breakdown (GAAP Basis – FY11) Program Expense Breakdown (GAAP Basis – FY11)($USD) ($USD) Teacher Training & Data & Evaluation Support 5% G&A 5% $206,063 Outdoor Education 8% Program 7% Development $397,360 15% Site Rental 7% Supplies & Activities Teachers & 7% Directors 60% Program Expense Program $2,029,832 Setup & 77% Support 8% Aim High| Nonprofit Investor Research 5
  6. 6. NET ASSETSNet assets has been stable over Aim High’s 26 year history, a clear result of the fiscal responsibility that has earned thecompany trust from key donors and constituents. Aim High has traditionally put a majority of its income towardsfunding its growing summer program, and holds very little cash in reserves. Detailed Financial StatementsFiscal Year Ended August 31 2009 2010 2011 CAGR Source:Support and Revenue: Foundation $812,722 $892,250 $1,122,530 Annual Report (GAAP) Individual 608,561 491,042 750,734 Annual Report (GAAP) Public 245,000 370,000 425,055 Annual Report (GAAP) Corporate 295,639 337,667 262,540 Annual Report (GAAP) Partners & Other 57,296 181,825 104,889 Annual Report (GAAP)Total Support and Revenues $2,019,218 $2,272,784 $2,665,748 14.9% % Growth 4.3% 12.6% 17.3%Expenses: Program Services $1,649,787 $1,732,610 $2,029,832 10.9% Annual Report (GAAP) G&A 142,861 173,886 206,063 Annual Report (GAAP) Development 302,321 324,244 397,360 Annual Report (GAAP)Total Expenses $2,094,969 $2,230,740 $2,633,255 12.1% % Total Support and Revenue 103.8% 98.2% 98.8%Change in Net Assets ($75,751) $42,044 $32,493 CalculationProgram Services as % of Total Expenses 78.7% 77.7% 77.1% CalculationG&A as % of Total Expenses 6.8% 7.8% 7.8% CalculationDevelopment as % of Total Expenses 14.4% 14.5% 15.1% CalculationCost Per Beneficiary # of Sites 11 12 13 Annual Report # of Students 1,023 1,071 1,238 Annual Report# of Students Per Site 93 89 95 Calculation Total Expenses $2,094,969 $2,230,740 $2,633,255Summer Program Cost Per Student $2,048 $2,083 $2,127 CalculationNotes: Aim High shifted its fiscal year from a June 1 start date to a September 1 start date in 2009. 2009 results reflect old fiscal year.All financial information above presented on a GAAP accounting basisFIVE-YEAR STRATEGIC PLAN AND KEY OPERATING METRICSAim High’s goal is to raise $15 million from 2011A-2015 in order to fund the growth plan laid out on page 7, whilekeeping fully-burdened expenses at $2,000 per participant. This estimate of $2,000 per student is below the averagecost for the last three years, but given the increase in teacher hiring ahead of future growth over the past couple years,Aim High may be able to achieve some operating leverage as it continues its growth trajectory. Aim High| Nonprofit Investor Research 6
  7. 7. Financial Budget ($USD) $4,000,000 $3,400,000 $3,500,000 $3,200,000 $3,000,000 $3,000,000 $2,800,000 $2,633,255 $2,500,000 $2,230,740 $2,094,969 $2,000,000 $1,500,000 $1,000,000 $500,000 $0 2009A 2010A 2011A 2012E 2013E 2014E 2015E# of Sites 11 12 13 14 15 16 17# of Students 1,023 1,071 1,238 1,400 1,500 1,600 1,700# of Students / Site 93 89 95 100 100 100 100Summer Program Cost Per Student $2,048 $2,083 $2,127 $2,000 $2,000 $2,000 $2,000Notes:(1) Summer Program Cost Per Student includes all expenses (program + fundraising + G&A)(2) 2009 data based on old fiscal year measurement (June-May). Company switched fiscal year in 2010.(3) 2009 Financial Budget is non-GAAP number from Form 990GROWTH OPPORTUNITIESGrowth in Existing Markets. Aim High estimates that there are 25,000 low-income middle-school students eligible forfree or reduced lunch in the areas where summer programs are currently offered. This implies that Aim High is onlyreaching approximately 5% of the current market (~1,200 students), leaving a substantial whitespace opportunity togrow into. Within that whitespace, there is significant unmet demand, as Aim High has always had a long waiting listeach summer of students who do not get accepted into the program. 382 eligible applicants were turned away in 2010.Expanding into New Markets. The 2011 five-year strategic plan explicitly lists the Truckee-Tahoe area as a potentialnew market for Aim High to enter. In the near term, Aim High’s contemplated growth of expanding by one site per yearcan likely be achieved by focusing on the Bay Area and areas peripheral to the Bay Area, including Contra Costa Countyand the San Jose metro area. Over the long term, Aim High should also explore non-adjacent markets with similardemographic characteristics to the Bay Area. Aim High’s alumni network has spread itself around the country, and inmany cases remains involved in education or public service, providing a link into academic communities that can serveas a starting point for exploring site locations in new markets.Expand Program Offerings Through Additional Partnerships. Aim High can continue to grow by broadening its summerprogram offering. Additional programs similar to the Environmental Home Program which are the result of mutuallybeneficial partnerships with government agencies would allow Aim High to reach more students, possibly withouthaving to cut back on dollars spent per student. Additional programs would likely attract more donations fromfoundations, individuals and public sources. Aim High| Nonprofit Investor Research 7
  8. 8. ADDITIONAL DILIGENCE AREASAnalysis of Recurring Funding Sources. To better estimate the funding risk, more research should be done to analyzethe donation trends by top donors over a longer time horizon, particularly individuals and foundations with annualcommitments in excess of $25,000.Expansion of Model Beyond Summer Program? Aim High once unsuccessfully attempted to bring its summer schoolmodel into a year-round setting at a charter school. Further diligence should be done to understand the underlyingreasons for that failure, and if there exists any rationale today for re-visiting the question to see if the Aim High teachingmodel can be expanded into a regular year-round school curriculum.Other Data Items For Measurement. There are additional concrete metrics that Aim High could track in theintermediate stage between Aim High graduation and high school graduation to measure the shorter term academicperformance of its participants. NPI believes that tracking standardized test scores and freshman year high school GPAare just a couple tangible measurements to evaluate the impact of an Aim High education.Student Selection. Each year the program is oversubscribed and applicants have to be turned away. As the programcontinues to grow, it will be important to continue to track the students that are selected to make sure those with thehighest need are being invited into the program first. A copy of the application form is available on the website, sopotential donors can see the short answer questions that students and their families are required to fill out. Theapplication includes the question, “Briefly explain what you will be doing this summer if you do not go to Aim High,” soprogram evaluators should have some insight into which kids have the highest need. More clarity on the candidateselection process would still be helpful for evaluation.THIRD PARTY RATINGSPhilanthropedia provided a very positive review of Aim High in 2010, and ranked Aim High among the Bay Area’s top teneducation non-profits. The opinions expressed were those of foundation professionals and senior staff at other non-profits. NPI agrees with a majority of the key points made in the report, including: (1) the Aim High summer programhelps disadvantaged kids and delivers a measureable impact supported by historical data; (2) Aim High has a clearlydefined mission and a visionary leadership team responsible for sustained growth; and (3) significant opportunity stillexists for Aim High to expand its services to a much larger student population, if equipped with the funds to do so.Many personal reviews of Aim High have been posted on GreatNonprofits, with an average rating of 5 out of 5 stars (80out of 82 reviews received 5 stars, 2 reviews received 4 stars). Only one review has been posted in the past year,coming from a program participant in the inaugural 1986 Aim High class who spoke very highly of her experience. Thistype of alumni feedback is not unique, as countless alumni and parents of alumni echo statements of gratitude andthanks to the organization for providing a life-shaping experience.Aim High has also earned a GuideStar Exchange Seal for its commitment to transparency from a financial, marketing andimpact perspective.In sum, NPI’s current analysis supporting Aim High’s continued success as a high-impact organization is consistent withprior viewpoints expressed by other third-party reviewers.GET INVOLVED • Volunteer time by chaperoning field trips, serving as a mentor or participating in a career panel discussion • Help Aim High alumni prepare for the real world by assisting with college preparations or offering an internship • Donate: Aim High| Nonprofit Investor Research 8
  9. 9. DISCLOSURESJohn Goldston certifies that he does not have any affiliation with Aim High and has never made a donation to theorganization. Additionally, John has not supported directly competing organizations in a greater capacity than a nominaldonation. NPI analysts and NPI as an organization do not receive any form of compensation from reviewed charities.This report is for informational purposes only and does not constitute a solicitation for donations. While the reliability ofinformation contained in this report has been assessed by NPI, NPI makes no representation as to its accuracy orcompleteness, except with respect to the Disclosure Section of the report. Any opinions expressed herein reflect ourjudgment as of the date of the materials and are subject to change without notice. NPI has no obligation to update,modify or amend any report or to otherwise notify a reader thereof in the event that any matter stated herein, or anyopinion, projection, forecast or estimate set forth herein, changes or subsequently becomes inaccurate, or if research onthe subject organization is withdrawn.Opinions and recommendations in our reports do not take into account specific reader circumstances, objectives, orneeds. The recipients of our reports must make their own independent decisions regarding any organization mentionedby NPI. Aim High| Nonprofit Investor Research 9