Picture an airplane: Shiny new, strong engine, full of fuel. But… it’s wedged into a parking lot in the middle of a city. So much potential just sitting there. All it needs is a runway.
“Year Up is a runway,” says Founder and CEO Gerald Chertavian. “The students are the planes; they come to us with the engines and wings. We don’t ‘change’ them—we just provide the runway that enables them to take off and do what they are fully capable of.”
Since its founding in Boston in 2000, Year Up has graduated 16,833 students from its programs in more than a dozen cities around the country. Chertavian’s early career was as a tech entrepreneur so, unsurprisingly, Year Up is an extremely data-driven organization. And, given that its charge is to rally partners in its quest to “close the opportunity gap” rather than beat competitors for profits, transparency is Year Up’s watchword. “That’s what makes it stand out in the workforce development field—we know it’s working,” Chertavian says. “A recent very large federal study with randomized controls found Year Up to be the most effective program in U.S. history for improving income for young adults.”
That data transparency and the story it tells were especially appealing to Mimecast Co-Founder and CEO, Peter Bauer. Another tech entrepreneur, Bauer had built “CSR” (corporate social responsibility) into his company’s culture from the start, but about two years ago, began to shift to thinking about it as global citizenship, not just CSR.
Beyond making donations, the cybersecurity company encourages employees to use five paid days a year to do volunteer activity, and the company matches employee charitable donations. Staff also nominate organizations that the company could support with larger donations and deeper engagement, a model begun by Mimecast in Bauer’s native South Africa.
As it happened, Year Up was a customer of Mimecast, and a rep in Florida sent a glowing note about the organization to headquarters, which prompted Bauer and Chertavian to meet in Boston. The latter shared the Year Up mission and the two philanthropic entrepreneurs found much common ground. “Clearly, Year Up has a good reputation,” says Bauer. “But more than that, it allowed us to marry elements of corporate social responsibility with equity and inclusion.” So now, in North America, Mimecast is partnering with Year Up to offer a workforce development program annually to 160 young adults—who are currently shut out of viable career and higher education opportunities—
in Greater Boston and in Dallas/Fort Worth.
Bauer had established the Mimecast Charitable Fund, a donor advised fund (DAF) at the Boston Foundation, to support nonprofits in the United States, U.K. and Australia. Mimecast appreciated not having to set up the infrastructure of a foundation of its own and, as with Year Up, the strong reputation of the Boston Foundation in its space made the connection an easy decision. “Year Up is a key program for us because of the multilayered involvement,” says Bauer, but Mimecast supports other areas as well, and looks to the Foundation for insights. “We just gave a donation to rainforest organizations in response to the Amazon fires, and the Boston Foundation helped us find organizations aligned with our corporate values.”
Through its corporate DAF at the Boston Foundation, Mimecast gives money to Year Up, but 30 or 40 Mimecast staff get involved in activities with Year Up each quarter as well. That can take the form of conducting mock interviews, serving as professional mentors, and so on. “Our employees really love working with Year Up,” says Bauer. “And in January 2020 we’ll take on our first interns [in the Lexington, Mass., office].” Although a new collaborator, Mimecast has become what Year Up terms an MVP—most valued partner—with more hands-on engagement than almost any other. Through this deep, personal engagement, Mimecast staff hopes to play an integral role in building the runway that enables Year Up students to soar.”
"Year Up opened my eyes to the possibilities.” -Year Up graduate Chance Nyi