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Case study

Empowering a nonprofit to expand its mission: Reducing the high school dropout rate

UrbanYouth Co, a volunteer youth corps, wanted to expand operations to achieve its ambitious goal: reducing the escalating number of high school dropouts. Over the past 20 years, our pro bono consulting teams have helped UrbanYouth Co grow into a successful national and international operation. We contributed our business knowledge, transformed UrbanYouth Co’s finance and fundraising operations, and donated millions of dollars and thousands of hours of our own volunteer time.

  • min read

At a Glance

  • 50% decrease in students "off-track" in attendance
  • 80% fewer suspensions

The Story

The Situation

In the US, every 26 seconds a student gives up on high school. To curb the alarming dropout rate, UrbanYouth Co* has created the pre-eminent volunteer youth service organization in America.

It unites young people of all backgrounds for a year of full-time service in underprivileged communities across 20 cities, working as tutors, mentors and role models to help children stay in school by improving attendance, behavior and course performance.

Since UrbanYouth Co's launch in Boston over 20 years ago, Bain has been fully committed, serving as a founding sponsor. Addressing pressing social issues like the nation's skyrocketing dropout rate is the goal of Bain Cares, our pro bono consulting arm.

UrbanYouth Co was under pressure to expand its successful Boston program to other US cities. We helped the nonprofit tackle two critical challenges: developing a clear growth strategy and well-managed finance and fundraising operations.

Our Approach

Our case teams applied the same results-oriented approach that we use with our business clients to collaboratively develop solutions.

Our extraordinary partnership with UrbanYouth Co goes beyond financial contributions. Two decades after we joined forces, our participation includes five Bain offices spanning the globe and pro bono consulting worth $9 million. Twelve pro bono case teams from Bain have helped UrbanYouth Co make the big decisions.

  • Designed long-term expansion strategy: We helped design UrbanYouth Co's five-year national growth plan to determine when, where and how to expand.
  • Organized volunteer support: Our consultants have provided thousands of hours of community service, corps team training and career guidance to volunteers.
  • Defined an international expansion strategy: Our work included full-time pro bono support for opening offices abroad.

Our Recommendations

Based on our growth roadmap, we recommended that UrbanYouth Co gradually expand operations by taking the following steps:

  • Doubling the number of its US offices over five years.
  • Clearly structuring the relationship between Boston and expansion sites.
  • Developing five-year strategic plans for both Boston and Los Angeles.
  • Transforming financial operations to boost revenues.
  • Focusing operations and fundraising on its core—reducing the number of high school dropouts.

To support UrbanYouth Co's implementation of these initiatives, Bain volunteers have led business-skills workshops and mentoring programs, contributed over $2 million in cash contributions and provided ongoing advisory support. We sit on UrbanYouth Co's national board as well as local boards in Boston, Chicago and New York.

The Results

Our collaboration with UrbanYouth Co has allowed it to expand operations to 18 US cities and abroad, and we have helped strengthen its position in the following areas:

  • UrbanYouth Co is one of only 14 (of the 183,000 nonprofits started since 1971) to achieve annual revenues of over $40 million.
  • UrbanYouth Co's national volunteer corps includes 13,700 corps members who've helped over one million children since 1988.
  • The organization's strong local fundraising appeal thas doubled donations in Boston in a three-year period.
  • Bain has supported UrbanYouth Co's international growth with the launch of operations in South Africa and London.
  • UrbanYouth Co now is on track to achieve its next bold objective: reaching 50 percent of all at-risk students in UrbanYouth Co locations over the next five years.


* We take our clients' confidentiality seriously. While we've changed their names, the results are real.

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