Homeless services nonprofit Homestretch had a problem. Its phone system would crash unexpectedly. Computers would mysteriously shut down.
Then the Falls Church charity met Excella Consulting, an IT consulting firm that heard about Homestretch through the volunteerism matchmaker Greater D.C. Cares.
Excella is now helping to replace the IT equipment. It has also taken a larger interest in Homestretch and its mission to offer child services and other help to homeless families.
Excella recently organized a family festival at the nonprofit’s headquarters where nearly 100 Excella employees volunteered as children played games, decorated cookies and learned about health and wellness.
“Most companies give lots of grants and spread their benevolence, but the actual relationship and impact is very minimal,” said Christopher Fay, Homestretch’s executive director. “This is revolutionizing philanthropy.”
Excella was dissatisfied with its giving and wanted to quantify its impact.
“I remember we were preparing for a walk-a-thon,” recalled Burton White, founding partner of Excella. “And an employee said, ‘Is this what we did last year?’ And someone else said, ‘I don’t know what we did last year.’ ... And it registered to me that this isn’t memorable or having an impact.”
To make the impact it desired, management decided to find one charity to support. It turned to the expertise of Greater D.C. Cares, known for its citywide service projects, to find a partner.
It preferred a charity that had a wide variety of programs with a compelling mission. When Greater D.C. Cares returned with a handful of charities, the company’s management scheduled meetings with executive directors and site visits to narrow down the choice.
Walking out of the meeting with Fay, the decision was made.
“I could feel like [Fay] was looking at us and trying to figure out what we were trying to accomplish,” said White. “It wasn’t just about, ‘Here’s what your company could do for us.’ Right then I knew this was going to be mutually beneficial.”
Excella incorporated Homestretch as its primary charitable partner, doing activities throughout the year such as refurbishing its properties, tutoring students and teaching English classes to parents.
In return, managers say the partnership has developed employees’ professional skills and created memorable bonds outside the office.
If it seems self-serving, White and his staff are unashamed: “It should be, because the more you benefit, the more you can do.”
Excella is not the only business that has adopted Homestretch as its own. Other companies such as Integrity Management Consulting, Project Performance and Case Design have a similar partnership that Fay said he believes is one of the most beneficial type of corporate giving model for his organization, which helps about 120 families.