DC SCORES creates neighborhood teams that give kids in need the confidence and skills to succeed on the playing field, in the classroom, and in life. Our 5-day-a-week programming holistically blends soccer leagues, original poetry/spoken word, and child directed service projects—mind, body and soul. Founded by a schoolteacher for 15 kids, DC SCORES has served DC’s low-income communities since 1994. Today, 200+ seasonal community coaches provide 36 weeks (350,000+ child-hours) of free, whole child, after school programs and summer camps for 2,200+ kids at 55 DC traditional/charter public schools and recreation centers.

Describe one management best practice of which you are particularly proud.

We are particularly proud of the integration of our team: everyone is responsible for highquality programming and everyone is a fundraiser. All staff – no matter what their primary role – regularly participates in programming. Likewise, all staff – no matter what their primary role – plays an active role in fundraising and being a “brand ambassador”. For example, our corporate gifts lead periodically referees elementary school soccer games, as does our Board Secretary. One of our soccer coordinators regularly rallies a D.C. United fan club to donate time and money to DC SCORES. Our grantwriter serves thousands of lunches at our annual spring soccer tournament.

Our data and evaluation lead frequently shares her stories about DC SCORES’ impact on individual kids she has gotten to know in front of volunteer and funder groups. The list goes on. All staff work all events (program and fundraising) regardless of “department,” because it connects fundraisers to program staff and program staff to fundraisers and operations staff to both. All staff are invited and encouraged to join the Board for dinner before Board meetings, and all Board members are expected and encouraged to work events alongside staff. The impact of a highly-integrated team is evident via “external” or “tangible” results, e.g. highly-successful crowdfunding giving day campaign, robust social media engagement, brand recognition in the local soccer community, expanding partnerships with area companies and nonprofits.

As importantly, it is reflected internally – in the trust our team have in each other and the support they readily offer each other; in the relationships between staff and Board, between staff and volunteers; in the deep knowledge of and connection to programming our fundraising and operations teams have, and in the appreciation for and commitment to be active partners in fundraising our program team has. The resulting enthusiasm our entire team has for each other and the work we do in the community is infectious, inspiring, and produces dividends in the metrics we use to track our success.

What advice would you offer for other nonprofit leaders/organizations striving for excellence in nonprofit management?

Effective, efficient, usable infrastructure really matters. Solid infrastructure keeps people mission-focused, provides early warning signals about potential challenges, increases efficiency, facilitates being a learning organization, and smoothes personnel transitions by retaining institutional knowledge. However, at the end of the day, it’s all about the people. Without passionate, dedicated, curious, committed people at all levels of a nonprofit – people who wholeheartedly buy into the cause, who feel part of the team, who feel ownership over the impact – even the best systems can fail.

How has the application process benefited your organization? What have you learned through the application process?

The application process gave us the opportunity to codify – in one place – the many management and infrastructure improvements we’ve implemented the past 5 years. Being in the day-to-day weeds, it isn’t always easy to recognize the big picture. Putting this application together gave us a moment to reflect, appreciate, and recognize how robust our operations are (and what is still left to do!), and the effort that went into getting to this place. All of these operational practices (the what, how, and why) documented in one place is a great resource that we intend to share with the full Board and all senior staff, as well as at new Board member training.

What does this award mean for you and your organization?

It is incredible validation and affirmation of the unsung hard work put in by staff and Board over the past many years. Nearly three years ago we experienced the unanticipated loss of a significant funder (due to their shift in focus) at the beginning of our fiscal year. Together, management and board determined not only to address the short-term consequences head-on (and were able to secure replacement funding), but to shore up our fiscal and operational infrastructure so that, should anything like this happened again, it would not threaten organizational viability.

We are very proud of the fact that the short-term impact on the kids we serve was minimal, and that we not only recovered, but today serve ~30% more children than we did before that challenge in a more sustainable manner than ever before. Our staff and Board leadership are the real heroes in achieving this; yet, none of them sought credit and few outside of their small group are even aware of all that went on behind the scenes. This award means the world to our small staff and Board leaders – a meaningful recognition of their commitment and contributions. It also is meaningful external validation of DC SCORES’ commitment to be not just an impactful, but a sustainable, long-term presence in the neighborhoods we serve and in kids’ lives.