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Strengthening Families, Building Communities: The Child Center of NY

December 2, 2019

For Traci Donnelly and Steve Donowitz, their commitment to the mission of The Child Center of NY happens daily.

As the CEO and CFO, respectively, Donnelly and Donowitz work with the leadership team to oversee a $65 million budget for the nonprofit, which touches the lives of more than 35,000 kids annually through more than 100 programs in 60-plus locations in all five boroughs and Long Island.

The Child Center of NY provides a depth and breadth of services across five lines of business: early childhood education, behavioral health, health homes and integrated care, prevention and family support, and youth development.

“We are a nonprofit serving children and families who are voiceless and underserved,” Donowitz says. “What sets us apart is our ability to provide services in communities with immigrant populations. Our employees communicate in 22 different languages with respect and cultural competency. That’s a critical piece—it’s not just speaking the language but understanding the culture.”

One such program in southern Queens transformed a school. The Child Center of NY stepped up as a community school partner, providing resources to support the principal’s initiatives. The Child Center of NY helped improve attendance, reduce dropout rates, and find activities to motivate and engage kids to come to school—including avionics and a culinary program.

“We were blessed to have an influx of support and investment from the community,” Donnelly says. “This program has become one of our most successful sites because of its potential to connect kids with a career.”

Best Practices for Greater Efficiencies

Together, Donnelly and Donowitz bring decades of experience in nonprofit management. Since joining The Child Center of NY in 2014, Donnelly and Donowitz helped the organization double in size.

“We rely heavily on government contracts, which means we work in a highly regulated environment,” Donowitz says. “Matching and challenge grants help us leverage opportunities when fundraising in the private sector. We’re grateful to have annual donors who have jumpstarted the organization and enabled us to not solely rely on the ever-changing government funding.”

What started as a child counseling center has grown—and Donnelly and Donowitz have relied on their experience in business to build out essential systems and infrastructure that have brought needed efficiencies.

“We really made a point to move to electronic records for tracking and to manage our business needs with key performance indicators and analytics dashboards,” Donnelly says.

This infrastructure, as well as their relationship with Sterling National Bank for business banking services, enables the organization to withstand changes to government funding and continue to serve their communities. They can pivot and make changes as needed, always asking how best to innovate to support programming.

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When The Child Center of NY decided to look for a new banking relationship, they switched to Sterling National Bank for all of their business banking activities, including checking, deposits, and commercial lending.

“The change has been extremely positive,” says Steve Donowitz, CFO. “What’s important for us is that Sterling takes a hands-on approach to banking and offers outstanding customer service.”

The Child Center of NY was able to secure a manageable line of credit that enabled them to have more flexibility. “Sterling came to the table and helped us find resources,” Donowitz says.

Traci Donnelly, CEO, says that while meeting the business banking needs has been crucial, their relationship with Sterling stands out the most. A representative from Sterling has served on the nonprofit’s board for years as part of the bank’s Community Reinvestment Act program.

“We had other bids and opportunities, but Sterling has made us their priority. In addition to banking, our Relationship Manager helped us develop partnerships that further our mission in communities we don’t yet serve,” Donnelly says. “They partner us with people in meaningful ways and it adds to our abilities to serve our clients.”

Read an exclusive online interview with Donnelly and Donowitz on innovation in nonprofit management.

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