What the organization does: Founded in 1995, PENCIL is a nonprofit organization that works with business leaders and New York City public schools to create programs that match the skills of the companies to the needs of local schools, with the aim of helping the students further their education and excel in their future careers. Businesses that take part in PENCIL’s programs specialize in a variety of industries, and their size varies from solopreneurs to companies with tens of thousands of employees.
PENCIL has two main programs: The PENCIL Partnership Program, which builds relationships between private sector leaders and public school principals, and the PENCIL Fellows Program, which is a career preparedness initiative that helps to place high school juniors and seniors in paid internships with New York City businesses.
Program details: The success of PENCIL’s Partnership Program is due in part to their partnership model, which focuses on three areas of impact: developing strong leaders, building school capacity, and enhancing student learning. By highlighting one of these three key areas, PENCIL is able to effectively match the expertise of an appropriate business leader to the needs of a school or principal. “Our matching process is pretty elaborate. Up front, we make sure that we learn about what a businessperson’s skills are, what their interests are, and we put a lot of time and effort into making sure we’re matching them up with a principal who can benefit from those skills,” says PENCIL president Michael Haberman. “It’s our job to help them shape something that’s going to work for their unique circumstances.”
PENCIL’s 379 partnerships serve over 230,000 students throughout New York City, Rochester, Baltimore, and Philadelphia. PENCIL partnerships are currently in place at nearly one-quarter of New York City's schools, and the organization aims to be in half (750) of the schools by 2016. In 2011, a survey of PENCIL’s Partnership Program participants revealed that 97 percent of respondents found that the program was having a positive impact.
Tips for implementing your own program: Working with an organization such as PENCIL is often the best way a business owner can give back to their community’s students. “I think too often businesses come in to a school with all the right intentions and say, ‘This is what we’re going to do for you,’ not realizing it’s not really what the school needs and it’s not the way that the school can most benefit. Those relationships usually don’t last a long time,” says Haberman. “It’s really about sitting down with the proper leadership and saying, ‘What are you looking for? What are your needs?’ and really figuring out together how they can be supportive and build a program around those needs.”