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St. HOPE Builds Foundation for Success for Thousands of Students in Sacramento

Posted by Morgan Carey, Nonprofit Industry Marketing Lead

After several years spent working in the private sector in New York City, Julian Love felt a desire to give back to his hometown of Sacramento, Calif., hoping to use his finance and accounting background for a public organization rich with purpose.

He found it with St. HOPE. In just shy of 20 years since its founding, St. HOPE, the work of NBA All-Star and former Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson, has grown from a single, portable classroom that served as an afterschool program for 12 young men from Sacramento High School to an entire community development effort for the Oak Park neighborhood of Sacramento. St. HOPE has started, attracted or catalyzed the creation of 20 businesses throughout the community resulting in nearly 300 jobs, and drawn more than $43 million in economic and real estate development investments.

The centerpiece of that effort is a network of charter schools launched in 2003, which have a focus on students in urban neighborhoods. The network now includes one high school, two middle schools and one elementary school serving a total of 1,800 students.

The vision of St. HOPE Public Schools is lofty – to create one of the finest urban pre-kindergarten through 12th grade public school systems in the United States. But it’s continually advancing toward that imperative – with some 95 percent of students graduating from its high school as college eligible.

Yet in advancing its mission to “graduate self-motivated, industrious and critical thinking leaders who are committed to serving others, passionate about lifelong learning and prepared to earn a degree from a four-year college,” the St. HOPE public school district was being held back by its back office processes. It lacked visibility into its multimillion dollar budget, struggled with budgeted versus actual spending and needed better control over cash flow.

That’s where Love came in. From day one, he was charged with examining the finance organization and related processes that ran its four charter schools, in order to uncover roadblocks and create efficiencies.

“I wanted to come back and work here for a mission I was really passionate about,” he said.

Love took over in December 2016, charged with leading the selection of a new ERP system to replace a tangled web of legacy systems and manual processes. Adding pressure to the search was a tight timeline – the organization needed to go live with a new system by July 1.

“We had no choice but to get this implementation done quickly,” Love said. “I wanted to end our relationship with the prior company running our finances by the start of the new fiscal year.”

Swayed in part by its ease of use and end-to-end functionality that would enable the organization to run unified finance, accounting and payroll processes, St. HOPE decided to implement NetSuite. A big determinant in that choice was NetSuite’s SuiteSuccess for nonprofit customer engagement methodology, which would allow the district to go live with a full-fledged ERP system in just shy of three months. Love was impressed with SuiteSuccess because there was already a roadmap that the organization could leverage versus starting from scratch.

“SuiteSuccess fit what we needed to do,” Love said. “The team we had was great, they were definitely experts in their fields. Whatever it took to get the job done, they were always there for us.”

No other vendor could deliver on that imperative. St. HOPE went live with NetSuite in 90 days, to manage an $18 million budget and payroll for 220 people who work in the district. With a unified, end-to-end view of its finances and accounting-related processes, St. HOPE has the visibility needed to instill confidence amongst its board in its finances.

“The confidence that the board and also our school leaders have in the finance organization and the accuracy of our financials has grown tremendously,” Love said.

“It gives them more confidence that they have a reserve and it’s real. That’s crucial in terms of keeping our operation going if say, funding from the state goes down.”

St. HOPE also added Oracle NetSuite’s Planning and Budgeting Cloud Service (PBCS) to facilitate financial planning with modelling, approval workflows and reporting seamlessly integrated into its cloud ERP. With NetSuite SuiteSuccess for nonprofits and PBCS, St. HOPE can focus on their mission of supporting Sacramento youth, not on their operations.

Learn more about SuiteSuccess for Nonprofits and PBCS, and watch St. HOPE CFO Julian Love’s interview with Ramon Ray of Smart Hustle Magazine.