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HOPE Program

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GiveWell aims to find the best giving opportunities we can and recommend them to donors. We tend to put a lot of investigation into the organizations we find most promising, and de-prioritize others based on limited information. When we decide not to prioritize an organization, we try to create a brief writeup of our thoughts on that charity because we want to be as transparent as possible about our reasoning.

The following write-up should be viewed in this context: it explains why we determined that (for the time being), we won't be prioritizing the organization in question as potential top charity. This write-up should not be taken as a "negative rating" of the charities. Rather, it is our attempt to be as clear as possible about the process by which we came to our top recommendations.

A note on this page's publication date

The last time we examined the charities working primarily in the U.S. was in 2010. As of 2011, we have de-prioritized further work on this cause.

The content we created in 2007 appears below. This content is likely to be no longer fully accurate, both with respect to what it says about the organization and with respect to what it implies about our own views and positions.

Published: 2007

We reviewed HOPE Program in 2007 as part of our process to award a grant to a job training charity. The following are our conclusions after reviewing HOPE Program's application materials.

In a nutshell

What they do: an extremely intensive job training program, aiming to place extremely disadvantaged adults (many on public assistance and with housing issues) in jobs paying $7.15-12/hr.
Does it work? HOPE's results are extremely strong, compared to what we know of other attempts to serve similar populations. We are unsure about how much of this difference is due to selection (the fact that its clients may be more motivated to begin with).
What do you get for your money? We roughly estimate that it costs HOPE about $25,000 to sustainably place a severely disadvantaged adult; about half of these make $8+/hr. We believe that nearly all of these jobs pay below what we consider self-supporting in New York City.
Where they rank: HOPE stands out from all others for its strong self-evaluation, documentation, and results. For donors looking to help extremely disadvantaged adults obtain relatively low-paying jobs, we recommend HOPE.

The Details

Whom do they serve?

HOPE recruits clients from New York's shelters, food pantries, drug treatment centers, and social service agencies; they screen out those with the most severe barriers to becoming self-supporting, but the population that remains still suffers from poverty and other significant problems, including housing issues and histories of substance abuse.

Selection: HOPE recruits clients from "shelters, food pantries, drug treatment centers, and social service agencies" (Attachment A-2 Pg 2). They have four hard requirements for clients: over 18, drug/alcohol free for at least four months, without a "severe and persistent mental illness" (Attachment A-2 Pg 2), and with legal permission to work in the United States (Attachment B-8 Pg 1). Note that some of HOPE's clients are required to participate in the program due to their drug treatment facilities' policies (Attachment B-8 Pg 1); we don't have information on how many clients fit this description, vs. how many are recruited.

HOPE's statement that they accepted 81% of applicants last year (Attachment A-2 Pg 2), along with the picture painted by their clients' demographics (below), implies that HOPE is helping people with serious barriers to becoming self-supporting. With the lack of clarity over how exactly people enter the HOPE program (and how many are required to participate vs. participate of their own initiative), we do not feel comfortable directly comparing this population to that of an organization like CCCS, however.

Characteristics. HOPE provides thorough survey-based data on its enrollees. The following table is from Attachment B-2 Pgs 1-20.

Year Enrollees % black and hispanic % without their own apartment % w/out a HS degree % with subst. abuse history % with crim. record % unemp. last 2 yrs. % on govt. ass.
1998-2001 (average) 92 92% 58% 56% - - 45% 86%
2002 138 96% 57% 52% 24% 14% 31% 57%
2003 167 94% 50% 54% 37% 31% 40% 75%
2004 188 91% 52% 46% 34% 27% 45% 81%
2005 175 95% 68% 54% 57% 49% 42% 83%
Average 152 94% 57% 52% 38% 30% 41% 76%

From this, we extract the following general characteristics:

  • Ethnicity: predominantly African-American and Latin-American
  • Income: Very low – around 75% on public assistance, which generally means being under the poverty line. These clients are lower-income than those of any of other program's, with the probable exception of CCCS.
  • GED/HS degree: about 50%
  • In shelter/halfway house: 33%
  • Past substance abuse: about 40% (though clients are required to be clean at the time of enrolling in HOPE, as mentioned above)
  • Past conviction: about 30%

Note that the latest year has by far the most (apparently) challenged set of clients. We are using past numbers here for purposes of putting outcomes data in context (see "Outcomes", below); however, there is some question of whether HOPE will achieve significantly different results as they take on a population in more need. We expect their placement/retention rates to worsen going forward, but not to worsen drastically (the past performance of different subsets of their clients shows that the more disadvantaged clients do worse but not substantially worse - see "Outcomes" below). Note that HOPE disputes this expectation (Attachment B-8 Pg 1).

What do they do?

HOPE's program is extremely intense compared to other programs serving similar populations. It includes counseling for non-work-related needs; 12 weeks of full-time training; a 12-week internship; and full-time counselor to help clients deal with personal issues that may prevent them from obtaining full-time work.

  • An intake-coordinator debriefs entering clients are for their non-work-related needs, including child care, housing, medical, and legal needs (Attachment A-2 Pg 2).
  • They then are enrolled in a training program that runs for 12 weeks, for 8 hours per day; part of the intent is to get clients accustomed to the time demands of a full-time job (Attachment A-2 Pg 2). Training includes basic job skills (problem solving, interpersonal relationships); job search skills (resume writing, interviewing); and financial literacy (see Attachment A-2 Pg 2).
  • After the 12-week full-time training, clients spend 12 weeks splitting their time between HOPE and an internship (Attachment A-2 Pg 3). Students intern three afternoons each week at one of 250 organizations that employ HOPE students. The internship provides students (along with their HOPE counselor) an opportunity to identify and eliminate any obstacles that might ultimately prevent them from retaining a full-time job (Attachment B-8 Pg 2). Most clients do not transition directly from their internship into a full-time job (Attachment A-2 Pg 3).
  • Throughout the program, HOPE clients have the services of a full-time counselor who helps them resolve issues that may be preventing them from obtaning full-time work, including childcare needs, housing, legal or medical problems, and other issues that may be obstacles to obtaining employment (Attachment A-2 Pg 2).
  • Generally, clients are placed in clerical office work (30%), building trades (17%), healthcare (10%), food services (8%), and childcare (7%) (Attachment A-2 Pg 4).

What are the results?

HOPE serves about 175 people a year on a budget of about $1.5 million; we don't have high confidence that it can scale up with more funding. It spends about $8500 per client, and places about 30% of its clients sustainably in jobs. About half of these earn $8+/hr, and about 20% earn $12+/hr; most of these jobs do not have clear paths to higher earnings. These results are significantly stronger (though also more expensive) than those of CCCS, which serves a population that is similar in many ways, but we are not sure of the extent to which this difference reflects greater motivation on the part of HOPE's clients (as opposed to HOPE's value-added).

Below data is sourced as follows:

  • Expenses are taken from IRS Form 990s (available on GuideStar), with the exception of 2007 expenses (Attachment A-2 Pg 4).
  • Enrollment and placement data for 2002-2005 is taken from Attachment B-2 Pgs 24-33.
  • 2006 enrollment and placement data from Attachment B-2.
Year Expenses Enrollees Program completion Placements 6m job retention 1 year job retention Mean hourly wage
1998-2001 (average) - 92 61% - - - -
2002 - 138 64% 72 - - $8.91
2003 - 167 63% 79 - - $9.74
2004 $1,502,574 188 60% 75 - - $9.45
2005 $1,629,529 175 66% 78 - - $9.87
2006 $1,751,069 177 64% 84 - - -
2007 (est) $1,508,693 - - - - - -
Average $1,597,966 169 63% 77.6 85% 72% $9.49

Placements: Hope places 50-60 people/year (about 30% of its enrollees) in sustainable employment (lasting at least 12 months).

HOPE has consistently graduated about 60% of their enrollees and placed around 75% of those who graduate. Graduation rates and the portion of graduates placed have fallen (from ~75-80% in 2002-3 to ~70-75% in 2004-6) as HOPE has increased enrollment, but this decrease is not so precipitous that we are concerned about HOPE's potential to grow. Of those placed, roughly 70% have kept their jobs for at least one year. So, we estimate that 60%*75%*70% = ~30% of HOPE's enrollees end up in sustainable employment.

HOPE's detailed outcomes data allows us to look at how it performs for the more challenged parts of its population: see Attachment B-2 Pgs 25-36. Results appear worse, but not much worse, for these clients than those for its clients population as a whole.

Severely disadvantaged Hope client Better-off Hope clients
Client characteristic Program completion: (average = 60%) Job Placement (average = 75%) 6-month job retention (average = 85%) Program completion: (average = 60%) Job Placement (average = 75%) 6-month job retention (average = 85%)
Last worked > 2yrs ago or never worked vs 53% 58% 88% 68% 74% 83%
No apartment vs has own apartment 64% 71% 80% 64% 60% 90%
HS dropout vs HS/GED 58% 68% - 71% 63% -
On government assistance vs Not on 65% 67% 84% 59% 72% 89%
W/substance abuse history vs without 70% 71% 80% 59% 66% 89%
Past conviction vs never convicted 66% 75% 77% 62% 64% 89%

Eventual client incomes: about half of those placed earn more than $8/hr, and about 20% earn more than $12/hr.

See Attachment B-2 Pg 32 for a breakdown of what clients ended up earning over 2002-2005. Only about half of HOPE's graduates earn over $8/hr, and it appears that few if any earn what we consider self-sustaining wages (analysis here).

We have little information on the occupations and job markets themselves: we know that professions include clerical office workers (30%), building trades (17%), healthcare (10%), food services (8%), and childcare (7%) (Attachment A-2 Pg 4). Because these are relatively low-paying and seemingly low-skill jobs (and because they are similar to those that VFI describes as having little upward path without further education), we would guess that there is no automatic or clear path to higher earnings.

We would guess that these are very strong results for this sort of population, but we don't have high confidence.

HOPE's population served is similar in many ways to that of CCCS, and its results are much better: 30% of enrollees placed in sustainable employment, compared to 5% (at most) for CCCS. HOPE also pointed us to a report by Community Voices Heard that examines the government's Employment Services and Placement Program, whose results are similar to those of CCCS: only 5% of those enrolled in the program end up with jobs that they hold for 6 months or more.

However, this difference may be explained by the population served rather than the program. In particular, both ESP and CCCS require their clients to participate in a job placement program, as a condition of receiving public assistance; HOPE has at least some clients that are in similar situations (i.e., required to participate as a condition of receiving another form of assistance), but we don't know how many, and we don't know how their outcomes compare to the outcomes of clients who participate by choice.

We would guess that motivation is an extremely important factor in being able to take and keep a relatively low-skill job, so it is hard for us to have high confidence that HOPE is outperforming other programs until and unless we have the details of who its clients are and - in particular - how many of them are in the program by choice vs. by requirement. How much of the difference between 30% and 5% has to do with the populations vs. the program? We would guess, just based on the size of the difference in outcomes and the absence of any clear or systematic differences in the population, that a significant part of the effect can be attributed to HOPE, but we aren't sure.

Costs: approximately 175 people served per year, on a budget of about $1.5M.

HOPE has grown from serving 100 people per year (1998-2001) to serving close to 200 (more recently). We would expect HOPE to spend about $1.5M next year and enroll about 175 people, roughly the size that HOPE attained over the 2002-2006 period. HOPE seems to have successfully expanded over the last 5-10 years, adding additional participants without reducing its graduation or placement rate, but we don't know whether the fact that it stopped growing is due to funding or capacity. We are therefore not confident that more money would allow HOPE to keep scaling up at the same level of effectiveness.

HOPE spends about $8500 per client enrolled; since about 30% end up sustainably employed, that's about $25,000 per client sustainably placed, about half of whom make more than $8/hr. This analysis does not take into account scalability concerns (the fact that costs might rise or fall with expansion).

The organization

HOPE is a relatively small and focused organization, and we have reviewed its full set of activities. Its financial situation and organizational structure appear reasonable.

Size and scope. HOPE is a relatively small organization: 19 full-time staff (Attachment C-4 Pg 1) and about $1.5M a year in expenses. It focuses exclusively on its job training program (and the accompanying documentation and evaluation, which HOPE considers to be a program in itself – see Attachment A-2 Pg 1).

Personnel. HOPE's 19-member Board is a mix of people from the for-profit sector (particularly law firms) and people in social services-related areas (Attachment C-2). Its key staff (Attachment C-6) mostly have backgrounds/educations in psychology.

Financials (see all attachments under heading D for sources).

Year Revenue (thousands $) Expenses (thousands $)
2002 1607 979
2003 1673 1320
2004 1832 1614
2005 1557 1644
2006 1611 1766
2007 (est) 2244 1861
2008 (est) 2240 2089

Revenues and expenses have grown roughly in line with each other over the last several years, consistent with (though not implying) HOPE's being scalable.

As of the 2006 audit, HOPE held around $2.4M in assets, which is 1-1.5 years of operating expenses.

Revenues are dominated by foundation grants, with relatively little coming from individuals and the government (Attachment C-5), and the recent jump in revenues (from $1.6M in 2006 to $2.2M projected in 2007) seems to be mostly attributable to foundations (see Attachment C-5). While grants are not necessarily a reliable source of income, it seems likely to us that HOPE's strong self-evaluation makes it a strong candidate for foundation grants, and its fundraising has been relatively consistent over the years.

Expenses are dominated by personnel and by the "operating costs" associated with renting and running the facility (Attachment D-5 Pg 4).

Conclusion

HOPE is our strongest applicant in terms of its detailed self-evaluation and documentation, and its results appear extremely strong for the population it serves. For donors looking to help extremely disadvantaged adults obtain relatively low-paying jobs, we recommend HOPE.

We'd like to know more about:

  • Selection process. We are unclear on the exact nature of HOPE's "recruitment" of clients. To what extent are they recruiting people who are more likely to be able to work? What proportion of their clients are in the program by choice vs. requirement, and does this factor make a difference in terms of eventual outcomes?
  • Training curriculum. We have a general overview, but we'd like to see the syllabus, formal layout, etc. to get a better sense of what clients are being trained to do and how they're being trained to do it.
  • Internship arrangements. Where do HOPE's clients intern, and how are these internships arranged?
  • Counselor. If the counselor is a key to HOPE's success, what does s/he do? What specific problems have counselors resolved and how have they resolved them?
  • Definitions. How does HOPE define "placement" and "retention"? Do they include part-time jobs?

Attachments

A. Application and response

D. Financials