Sharing the gifts of literacy with more kids in more communities

Posted March 31, 2021 in Education
Funded since 2020

ONE TO ONE has been around for awhile. In fact, before Power to Give came into the picture, the organization had a more-than 20-year track record of engaging and retaining hundreds of dedicated literacy volunteers to share the joy of reading. Simple and straightforward, their well-regarded program model delivered clear and measurable impact in building confidence and literacy skills with young readers.

It was important work, and they did it well—but it was always a struggle to scale to a place of stability, according to Carol Neuman, now the organization’s Executive Director. She wasn’t with the organization in the early days, but knows that most years there was uncertainty as to whether they would have what they needed to run the program. Would they be able to support everyone who needed it? 

During those first decades, ONE TO ONE was tiny, with an office in the closet of an elementary school, according to Carol—which meant they could only operate the organization when class was in session. During summer and other school breaks, no work could get done, and any momentum built up over the school year would be lost. 

This remained the organization’s reality for years, until a catalyst propelled them forward, allowing them to scale their operations and amplify their impact. The catalyst? Support from two sources: Social Venture Partners and Power to Give. 

According to Carol, the two organizations’ investment changed everything. 

In the years since, Power to Give’s support “has provided stable, predictable growth in the areas in which it’s most needed—specifically, adding talent to our staff team. We have transformed from a small, mostly part-time staff to a team of full-time professionals who are able to be fully dedicated to the cause. 

“Power to Give’s support is unique in that it recognizes the need to invest in the organization and the people who run it in order to thrive. As we continue to look for new ways to support more and more young readers, this has become increasingly invaluable to us.” 

Carol says it’s allowed the organization to scale—growing from partnerships with 50 schools to 205 in the course of six years—and to operate more efficiently and effectively. “We’ve been able to not only increase our number of connections with schools, but also to deepen our relationships. So it’s been a matter of increasing both breadth and depth.” 

And ONE TO ONE has been able to look at the “wouldn’t it be nice to have” list. “It’s not fancy things on that list,” she says. “It’s basics, but it’s things that were out of our reach before. Like being able to hire a Program Manager who can call on literacy organizations in Kamloops or Cranbrook or communities on Vancouver Island and talk about ONE TO ONE; to get them set up with the program. So it just helps us work more effectively, because it doesn’t feel like we’re starting from scratch every time we do something.” 

She considers Power to Give unique in that it’s trust-based and flexible, allowing organizations like ONE TO ONE to think about what they need. “This is where the impact sector is heading, or at least where it needs to head.”  

And then there’s the benefits of being part of the Power to Give network. 

“You’re not alone,” she says. “You’re connected to other leaders. There are so many opportunities for collaboration for sharing best practices. For talking through some of the challenges we collectively face. For dreaming together. It’s unlike anything I could have dreamed of.”