Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Putting Zuckerberg’s Millions to Work for Schools

A  nice article about Greg Taylor, the new head of the Foundation for Newark's Future:

THE people in charge of giving away $100 million of Mark Zuckerberg's money to improve the lives of children in this city operate from a drab warren of offices downtown, where the walls are empty except for a few whiteboards left behind by another nonprofit organization.

There are five unwelcoming black plastic chairs in the foyer for visitors, part of a package of used desks, filing cabinets and shelves picked up for $9,000. The microwave in the kitchenette is also a hand-me-down.

Until a couple of weeks ago — more than a year after Mr. Zuckerberg, a co-founder of Facebook, announced his gift to much fanfare on "The Oprah Winfrey Show" — the sign on the door was a sheet of 8.5-by-11 paper taped to the glass, and the people behind it lacked business cards.

"Everybody is complaining that we don't have pictures up," said Gregory Taylor, president and chief executive of the organization, the Foundation for Newark's Future, pointing to a stack of donated photographs on the floor that he said he might never hang.

"People are really sad that we're in start-up mode," Mr. Taylor added. "But we kind of like it. We want to be lean and scrappy."

Mr. Taylor, a 43-year-old who is long experienced in foundation and youth work, is in many ways living the do-gooder's dream, flush with cash, attention and a rare alliance of public officials at his flank. But turning $100 million — actually, $200 million, presuming the mayor manages to raise the matching funds Mr. Zuckerberg required — into transformational change amid intractable problems may not be as much fun as it sounds.

Mr. Taylor started work here June 13, nine months into the initiative's five-year timetable, facing significant suspicion in a place notoriously wary of outsiders. He started with a 100-day roadmap focused on building the organization, hiring staff (five so far, expected to grow to 12 eventually) and drafting a budget ($1.5 million for operations this year, also likely to grow).


Putting Zuckerberg's Millions to Work for Schools

Published: November 1, 2011


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