As reported early July, Harlem Academy was awarded this year’s Gold Medal at the New York Time’s Nonprofit Excellence Ceremony. Harlem Academy is the first school to ever be recognized for this honor.

So what makes Harlem Academy so different, and what can be learned from their practices? The New York Time’s compiled a few examples for which practices they believe exemplify Harlem Academy’s excellence.

The practices are divided into 7 subgroups:

  • Overall Management Focus on Results
  • Governance Structure That Moves the Organization Forward Strong, Transparent and Accountable Financial Management
  • Inclusive, Diverse, and Responsive Organizational Practices
  • Enlightened Use of Human Resources
  • Regular and Effective Communications and Technology
  • Effective, Ethical Fundraising and Resource Development

Let’s zero in on one of the biggest struggles today’s schools are facing: managing a waning budget.

Here are just some of the practices NYT observed at Harlem Academy:

“Fiscal management and planning is collaborative and includes all management areas.

Annual operations and cash budget inform strategic plan; possible scenarios are designed to provide paths if corporate funding is cut, families experience increased inability to pay for tuition, or many other circumstances.

Has achieved a surplus every year; cash on hand increased by an average of 27% each year; ended 2010 with 167 days’ (nearly 6 months) cash on hand.

Efficiency achieved by engaging volunteers and empowering staff within flat administrative structure; cost per student is 60% of average for NYC independent schools and on par with NYC public schools, while school day is 36% longer.

Responded to financial crisis with disciplined financial reporting and forecasting revenues and expenses every 4 months (3 times /year).

Reduced management costs as a percentage of total operating expenses by 42% in last 4 years.

Strategic planning committee monitors financial position and budget revisions against actual spending; provides long-term financial goals and planning guide for future growth and sustainability.

Budgeting begins with programmatic goals within the context of the strategic plan and revenue forecasts.”

For the details on the practices in the rest of the subjects, please refer to this pdf from the New York Times. For more information about Harlem Academy, contact Britta Blodgett – or 212.348.2600 x305