GUEST BLOGGER: Brandon Baker, Director of Development, Kids-U


We’re happy to have been mentioned in Ira Silver’s new book Giving Hope: How You Can Restore The American Dream as one of 75 nonprofits nationwide that is efficiently using our resources to increase access to opportunity.

The success of Kids-U stems from “collective impact,” which is when a group of individuals from numerous sectors come together to solve a social problem. For us, that group is Dallas Social Venture Partners, an array of professionals in the Dallas area who aim – in their words – “To Do Good Better.” DSVP doesn’t just throw money at the problem; these men and women take a systematic business approach to finding solutions. They assign a team of professionals to work with local nonprofits to help them create sustainability and develop strategic marketing, while providing coaching, mentoring, and board development. The services, training, and knowledge they provide is invaluable.

Kids-U was an investee of DSVP in 2010. Notice the word “investee” – that’s how the various Social Venture Partners across the U.S. think about the groups they fund. They support scalable social enterprises, thinking about the nonprofits they support as businesses.

Many people have told me they like Kids-U’s business model and want to know how they can adopt it and make it scalable in other neighborhoods across the U.S. I have met with at least 6 agencies in the last year telling them how we created our model, negotiated our contracts, and implement our programming.

Our unique approach is that we charge the owners of our apartment complexes to have our services in their low-income, high-crime apartment communities. This seems like a simple concept to anyone from the business world, yet it’s something very few others in the apartment-based, after-school industry in Dallas have tried. And I’d like to take it one decisive step further, by creating a fully sustainable model that doesn’t have to rely on outside funding.

This may sound impossible, but it hardly is. We’re modeling ourselves on an organization in Austin, Foundations Communities. They buy and own their own apartment complexes and provide social services like education, shelter for victims of domestic violence, and counseling. They’re solving multiple issues using affordable housing as the delivery mechanism. They are taking away barriers for people who previously couldn’t receive services because they couldn’t travel across town, or they didn’t know they had certain options available.

Foundations Communities takes the money they make from their apartment communities (renters pay on a sliding scale based on income) and invest it back into the members of their communities through educational and supportive programs. At Kids-U, we’re moving towards this business model after seeing firsthand its ability to dramatically impact the people of that community. Instead of being a burden on the local economy, they are driving it through property development, creating jobs, providing places for the homeless to live, and educating people to be self-reliant.

So, the next time you see the word “investee,” think about how a model of sustainability could impact your city or your sector of the industry…in the way this has successfully occurred in Dallas!