Serving Queens’ Seniors, Youth, & Immigrants: Jacob A. Riis Neighborhood Settlement

Jacob A Riis Hero

The Challenge


A Scaling Problem

The Riis Settlement serves more than 20,000 people every year in western Queens, one of the most diverse urban areas in the country. The team operates a senior center, provides after-school programs for youth, offers legal assistance and ESOL classes for immigrants, and equips adults with education and voter knowledge.

But they had a scaling problem. As they continued to serve more people in the community, Riis Settlement struggled to keep up with capacity.

Jacob Riis Challenge

“Riis Settlement has experienced tremendous growth- and it felt imperative to sit down and carve out a plan for the future that would increase our capacity and ensure sustainable growth. Undergoing the strategic planning process with CRE allowed us to map out a clear and comprehensive five-year strategic plan, reassess the needs of our participants and surrounding community, reflect on our programmatic offerings to ensure we were successfully meeting those needs, and to identify areas for enhancement. We are moving forward with a clear sense of direction and a renewed focus on those we serve”

Christopher Hanway

Executive Director, Jacob A. Riis Neighborhood Settlement

Strategic Planning


The Riis Settlement team needed outside help to bolster its capacity. To help, we focused on two core areas — program planning, and mission-focused data tracking.

We worked closely across agency staff and board members to both define high-level strategy and incorporate programs into the core services. We helped Riis Settlement clarify its mission, set goals for major program areas, and set measurable objectives for those goals. This work distinguished the core programs from the more peripheral offerings, and allowed for better resource allocation.

Finally, we worked with the Riis Settlement team to identify outcomes for each of their target populations (such as immigrants, youth, and seniors). We created client-centered indicators to define success for each area, and refined the data collection strategy to allow Riis Settlement to learn from its clients long-term and grow sustainably.

The Impact

Jacob Riis Impact

By streamlining their systems for tracking community members' outcomes, Riis Settlement established a culture of knowledge and commitment to ongoing improvements. Teams were able to better coordinate, and Riis Settlement is now able to more comprehensively address the needs within the Queens community.

And the team wasn’t just able to serve more in their community. In a tough fundraising environment, Riis Settlement was able to leverage its new strategy to gain a competitive edge and generate new funding. Through that boost in funding, the team was able to further enhance its reputation as a leader in serving Queens. 

Strategic planning doesn’t just set future vision, it sets an organization up for sustainability and increased impact. Work with CRE today to make sure your organization is on the right path.

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