“Joy today and hope for tomorrow.” It’s the powerful mission behind America SCORES Bay Area, which delivers a unique blend of soccer, poetry and civic involvement for nearly 2,000 San Francisco area public school kids each year.
Bay Area Executive Director of America Scores, Colin Schmidt, says the 1st-through 8th-grade kids in the program already have grit and resilience; what he’s focused his life’s work to provide for them are opportunity and joy. To do that, he and his staff of 32 must manage a complex network of volunteers and school staff across 80 low-income public schools in the area. Technology has taken a lead role since March 2020 — in the wake of COVID-19— when the organization fast-tracked its three-year plan to move more of its mentoring and coaching online.
Taking care of the team that powers America SCORES is a priority for Colin Schmidt, but it was also too time-consuming and confusing.
“We used to dread the annual renewal process for our benefits plans. After receiving a slew of complicated forms from each provider, we would meet with our employees one-on-one and in groups to explain options. We hire from the diverse community we serve, and for many of our staff members, the process was overwhelming and confusing, especially for those stepping into their first job. For me, the process demanded an enormous amount of time to understand the forms, explain their nuances to each employee, and ensure they were completed in time.
“When we lost our benefits administrator, that was the moment I realized I needed to connect benefits and payroll together and I needed an HR tool to help.”
Our core values are joy, teamwork, and results. Before Zenefits, there was zero joy in the benefits administration process: teamwork was stymied and results were hijacked by tedious administration headaches. Now our reality matches our core values.
Founder and Executive Director
In 2017, Colin found Zenefits.
“At America SCORES, our core values are joy, teamwork, and results. Before Zenefits, there was zero joy in the benefits administration process: teamwork was stymied and results were hijacked by tedious administration headaches. With Zenefits, we can now focus on delivering programs to vulnerable youth and professional development for our front-line staff. Now our reality matches our core values.”
Building a Physical —and Virtual— Field of Dreams on Limited Resources
Colin Schmidt launched America SCORES Bay Area nearly 20 years ago. He remains entranced with the “magical combination” that builds kids’ confidence, strength, and the ability to find their “voices.” In fact, many kids who have participated in this program have gone on to college, careers, and their own volunteering work. Some alumni have returned to America SCORES to help the next generation of local kids.
The program, free to families, has created some magical opportunities over the years. It created sports programs and built playing fields: replacing asphalt at underfunded schools across the city. SCORES has additionally provided its kids with a platform for their ideas, co-sponsoring poetry slams and spoken word poetry recordings on a local radio station, KALW.
For example, check out 2nd grade “Radio Poet” Isabelle Tam’s Recipe for Mischief Bradley Cupcakes.
In the spring of 2020, COVID-19 forced the organization to accelerate its plans to become more technology and data-driven and to ensure the broadest, optimal impact from its programs. “Five weeks ago we could have curled up, in a fetal position. But today, we’ve done the exact opposite; we floored it. We didn’t want to disappear from these kids’ lives — even as our team members had their own challenges. We truly live by the words we teach our kids: “Commitment: we will be there! Teamwork: because we care!”
And wow, that teamwork and commitment have already delivered. The organization launched Scores U, an online learning platform that kids can access from computers or phones to participate in journeys, quests, and leaderboards: all elements of competition and self-expression. They’ve even figured out how to use Zoom to give kids virtual soccer skills coaching from their backyards or hallways.
Supporting the Team Behind the Program
“We work with exceptional, grateful people who care a lot. In turn, I try to support, applaud, cheer, and pay them competitively. Zenefits is part of this – it takes the confusion and hassle from anything related to benefits, pay and time off. It delivers so much clarity and control for me and for our team, seamlessly.
“Managing a growing and geographically-distributed staff can be extremely time-consuming for an overextended management team. But Zenefits has changed the game and enabled our growth by allowing us to maximize two of our most precious and limited resources — time and brainpower.”
A few specific areas of impact:
- All-in-One. “The dashboard is tremendously helpful for navigating any HR-related issue. The integration with Quickbooks allows for accuracy and speed of accounting processes.”
- Benefits Administration. “What used to necessitate dozens of meetings and hundreds of questions has gone to zero meetings and a smattering of manageable questions. We depend on the seamless benefits management Zenefits makes possible. Embroker Insurance Management solution has been a lifesaver in navigating certificates of insurance for dozens upon dozens of partners who required specific name listings and proof of coverage.”
- Hiring and Onboarding: “The process has been streamlined for both managers and new hires. The questions around who qualifies for what and when have been radically simplified. And I can now focus my energies on fundraising and growth.”
- PPP Loan Report: In fact, Zenefits was also helpful in supporting Colin’s recent —successful— application for a Paycheck Protection Plan loan with a new reporting tool built specifically for gathering required payroll data for PPP applications.
The optimism that drives Colin to build the next generation of strong, healthy agents of change also colors his perspective on the “upside” of COVID-19. The needs we serve are not going away, they are about to get a lot bigger. We will come out, survive, and be stronger because of it.”