By Bill Parry
There are more than 4,200 non-profits in the borough, representing 15 percent of the New York City total, but no Queens organization has ever won a prestigious New York Community Trust Nonprofit Excellence Award. Until now.
Row New York, a 12-year-old Long Island City-based organization that empowers youth from under-resourced communities, was one of three nonprofits to win the award Nov. 20. The three organizations were recognized for their outstanding management practices.
“We’re very excited about it,” Row New York Founder and Executive Director Amanda Kraus said. “It’s a seal of approval when someone that is respected takes a long look at your organization and decides, after careful analysis, that yes — they are a good nonprofit.”
The Nonprofit Coordinating Committee sponsors the award.
“Basically, it’s a trade association for nonprofits,” awards committee member Diana Davenport said. “We’re experts at analysis and run a really nice and successful program and people really pay attention to the winners. They can use the award to generate more interest and press recognition. This helps them in their fund-raising because people will know that their money is going to a well-run, professional organization.”
Row New York began in 2002 with the simple idea that competitive rowing paired with rigorous academic support for underserved youth could change the trajectory of their teen years and beyond. Row New York teams have medaled at the New York State championship for six years in a row and compete regularly at regional regattas against athletes who have every advantage.
Each girl averages 1,008 hours in the year-round intensive program and it’s not all on the water. The program offers intensive academic tutoring and college preparedness with nearly 100 percent going on to higher learning, most on scholarship.
“We get girls from neighborhoods like Flushing and Jamaica, from schools that don’t have much in the way of athletics, and we teach them the sport of rowing,” Kraus said. “Rowing is the ultimate team sport where there are no stars. It’s not always fun, it’s hard work, but you push through it and see the rewards. It helps to forge character. They travel, compete and transform into strong confident women.”
The awards are based on eight areas of excellence: focus on results; governance structure; financial management; human resources; diversity and responsiveness; information technology; communications; and fund-raising.
“Amanda crafted her organization after our eight areas of excellence,” Davenport said.
Kraus agreed, saying the focus on the eight areas helped Row New York develop into a well-run organization. “We’re just over a decade old with just 23 full-timers on staff; these other winners have been around for 120 years,” she said.
Leake & Watts was founded as an orphanage in 1831 and continues to give support to thousands of children. Graham Windham was founded in 1806 providing innovative child welfare and youth development programs.
As for being the first Queens nonprofit to win the award, Knaus said, “We are very aware of that, but I think Queens doesn’t get the attention it deserves for all the great works its nonprofits are doing.”