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Catholic Charities Community Services (CCCS)

About this page

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

Note: Catholic Charities Community Services applied for a grant GiveWell offered in 2007, but did not receive the grant. The information below explains why.

In a nutshell

We selected CCCS as a finalist because it submitted detailed data on job placement and retention. We think that having this sort of data available is necessary for an organization that wants to evaluate its own activities, learn from them, and improve; we also think that the willingness to share it shows a commitment to transparency. Therefore, knowing what we know, we'd recommend this organization over any non-finalist.

When we looked at the program and results alongside those of our other applicants, we saw that CCCS's relatively simple and brief job training program appears to have very high attrition, relative to a program like The HOPE Program (which serves a similar population). Although CCCS's costs are also lower, we don't have confidence that it is helping its clients significantly, relative to how they would do without its help, and so we do not give a full recommendation.

The details

Whom do they serve?

CCCS serves a population that we would guess has the most barriers to employment of any applicant's, based both on the fact that all are below the federal poverty line and on the high attrition in its programs (see below).

Selection. CCCS states, "The participants in our Adult Employment Program are Harlem residents referred to us directly by the New York City public assistance system, and we serve all who come through our doors" (Attachment A-2 Pg 2).

Characteristics.

  • Ethnicity: predominantly African-American and Latin-American (Attachment A-2 Pg 2).
  • Income: Very low - all clients are below the federal poverty line (Attachment A-4 Pg 1).
  • GED/HS degree: 30% (Attachment A-2 Pg 2).
  • In shelter/halfway house: unclear, but 50-60% are "homeless" (Attachment A-2 Pg 2)
  • Substance abuse issues: "20% have a substance abuse problem" (Attachment A-2 Pg 2)

What do they do?

CCCS runs a relatively stripped-down job training program: 8 hours a day for 2 weeks, focusing on general job-related issues (resume writing, interview skills, conflict resolution) rather than any particular vocation (Attachment A-2 Pg 3).

What are the results?

The following information is from Attachment A-4 Pgs 1-3.

Class Enrollees Graduates Placed 3m job retention 6m job retention Average hourly wage
2006 811 777 158 86 34 8.78
2007 935 589 125 81 30 9.63

Over two years, only 64 of CCCS's clients seem to have obtained jobs that they retained for 6 months - out of 1366 enrollees. Given the high level of attrition between 3-month and 6-month retention, we'd guess that 12-month retention was even lower.

We have little information about the jobs that graduates end up taking, but the average salaries are comparable to those of HOPE Program graduates.

With fewer than 5% of enrollees ending up sustainably employed over the last two years, we're inclined to attribute the successes much more to the individuals than to the program itself.

What does it cost?

CCCS puts the total cost of the Adult Employment Program at $512,946 for the most recent year, including an allowance for organizational overhead (Attachment A-2 Pg 4-5). That comes out to about about $600 per enrollee, and about $17,000 per person placed for 6 months or more (ignoring the fact that some of these people may have been able to get jobs without CCCS's help).

Conclusion

We are not confident that these results indicate a significant effect above and beyond what would have happened without CCCS's help. For this reason, we do not find CCCS to be one of our very strongest applicants, and we have abbreviated our writeup of it.

That said, we approve of CCCS's ability and willingness to share its results, and we hope that this attitude results in a continually improving program.

We'd like to know more about:

We'd like more information on the population CCCS serves - in particular, whether a similar group of people, without help, would be likely to achieve the results described above. Without this information, we remain unconvinced of a strong program effect from CCCS's Adult Employment Program.

Attachments

A. Application and response

B. Program related attachments

C. Organization related attachments

D. Financials

The audit we were sent is available in hard copy only. Form 990s are available from GuideStar.

Catholic Charities Community Services' response to the GiveWell review:

We are very grateful for the honest and direct response from the Clear Fund staff. The comparison with The HOPE Program has been useful to us in thinking how we can take next steps to further improve our services and have greater impact.

Ultimately, if a workforce development program is to have the greatest positive impact, the program must be funded with a mix of private funding (which is often more flexible) and government contracts (which impart an ability to go to scale, allow for cost-of-living increases and long-term sustainability). The issue of scale is of critical importance at a time when new, boutique nonprofits, promising innovation and impact for a select audience are popping up. In New York City, this is especially acute as boutique programs drain resources from larger, more established programs, which if provided with the proper mix of resources could have a profound, large scale impact on poverty.

CCCS participates in the Adult Employment Program through a contract with an intermediary, the non-profit organization SEEDCO. SEEDCO's EarnFair Alliance program leverages support from private foundations in addition to directly contracting with the New York City's Human Resources Administration (HRA) to support 16 community-based organizations throughout New York City. As a member of the Alliance, CCCS must adhere to HRA's policies which require community partners to “engage” all eligible recipients in planned, constructive activities, in the belief that doing so will reduce down time, dependency and increase employability.

Participants come to our door because they are seeking public assistance, which includes cash assistance, food stamps, Medicaid and housing vouchers. Receipt of those benefits is the immediate goal, not necessarily employment. Our inability to “cream” or recruit willing participants combined with their significant personal barriers impacts our ability to place more individuals in employment. However, our results, when compared to similar government-funded, welfare-to-work programs are within normal limits.