Ice the Beef is a New Haven youth development organization run by long-time city residents, currently registered as a limited liability company but applying for 501(c)(3) status.
The following is an excerpt from an interview with Alan Sage, SM’ 14, advisor to the CEO.
Q: What is the mission of Ice the Beef?
A: Ice the Beef’s mission is to break the cycle of anger in the New Haven community. We’ve experimented in a few directions to work towards that mission: in our first year we held a symposium on violence in the city and assisted a few young residents who found themselves in the middle of potentially deadly feuds. However, our main tool remains mentorship, pairing up local students, last year at Hillhouse High School and now at Domus Academy, with our staff members. Having grown up in New Haven and experienced challenges similar to those facing their mentees, Ice the Beef’s mentors bring a rare candor and understanding to the mentorship process.
Q: What Prompted you to get involved in the organization?
A: Our CEO, Darrell Allick, founded Ice the Beef after the murder of his brother Donnell Allick in 2011, a year that saw 34 murders in New Haven. Darrell used to be involved in the kind of illegal activity that led to Donnell’s demise—in his youth Darrell was one of the city’s most infamous drug dealers. Darrell saw Donnell’s murder as a sign that he needed to put an end to his risky lifestyle for the sake of himself and his kids. Because of his experiences, however, Darrell brings an invaluable perspective to the task of understanding and fighting the sources of anger that lead too many young New Havenites down a road of drugs and violence. I met Darrell through a journalism project I was working on about hip-hop and violence in New Haven and now work as his advisor.
Q: How did you set goals for the organization when you joined it?
A: Ice the Beef faced some initial challenges in developing a strategic plan since Darrell’s reputation led to substantial media attention before the organization had built up internal capacity. Thankfully we were fortunate enough to run into some very capable mentors, including Andrew Ferguson, who works on education policy in Connecticut and approached Ice the Beef after reading about Darrell’s work. With Andrew’s help, the organization developed its first one-year strategic plan and submitted an application to the Yale Law School Nonprofit Organizations Clinic for help with becoming a registered nonprofit. Erik Clemmons, Executive Director of the Connecticut Center for Arts and Technology, has also been checking in frequently (mentoring us every 90 days) with Ice the Beef to ensure we’ve been making solid progress.
Q: How do you measure the impact of programs?
A: We’re in the process of building up a system to measure impact for our mentorship program, which we’re implementing at Domus Academy. For the time being we’re going to be looking mostly at attendance, grades, and students’ behavior, but may move on to more innovative indices as the program grows.
Q: What have been the greatest challenges?
A: As I mentioned previously, our greatest challenge has probably been developing internal infrastructure to catch up to the media attention Ice the Beef received almost immediately after it was founded. When Darrell started Ice the Beef, it was his first step away from the streets, meaning he had no experience with an organization’s day-to-day workings. By the same token, while Ice the Beef struggled internally, Darrell’s reputation made building up community support much easier than it would have been otherwise. Before long, we had a Facebook group of over 9,000 (11,761) members, and a number of influential community members, including Howard K. Hill of Howard K. Hill Funeral Services and Louis Stone of Clifford Beers Guidance Clinic, approached us hoping to help. We were covered in the New Haven Independent and New Haven Register very soon after our inception. It was really after working with Andrew on the strategic plan that we began to build up a solid organization internally.
Q: What’s your top fundraising tip?
A: Most of Ice the Beef’s support so far has been from New Haven Public Schools—they gave us a $10,800 contract for our work at Hillhouse High School, and we’re currently negotiating our contract for our work at Domus Academy. Many other local organizations have been very generous in donations to Ice the Beef for specific events. New Haven Promise, who is also designing a new website for us pro bono, donated 500 backpacks to one of our community-building backpack drives. If there are any takeaways from our experience thus far, it would be that at our organization’s scale, fundraising requires time, sacrifice, and occasionally out-of-pocket expenses to build up a program that others will want to support later on.
Q: Whatʼs the most critical lesson youʼve learned about nonprofit management?
A: The most critical lesson we’ve learned is to really focus on delivering a quality product, at least in a city as small as New Haven where many funders and city leaders hear through the grapevine about an organization’s performance. The fact that Ice the Beef has become a well-known community name across New Haven’s neighborhoods hasn’t escaped the attention of the officials we work with. People know our staff and know that their experiences really do qualify them to mentor troubled youth in the city, a fact that has played no small part in opening up doors for Ice the Beef. Sometimes delivering a quality product means resisting expansion until the organization has developed enough capacity to hire equally qualified staff.
Q: What changes do you anticipate in the nonprofit landscape over the next five to 10 years?
A: I think there’s a lot of promising activity at the intersection of nonprofits and the private sector around ideas like impact investing. These concepts work really well for larger, more developed nonprofits, but the question is how to connect small organizations like Ice the Beef that have invaluable community expertise with capital through these innovative fundraising techniques.
Q: How can others help support your organizationʼs mission?
A: The group is always looking for volunteers who can help with our mentoring programs. Team members are already volunteering, but we need more qualified volunteers in order to expand KOYOT to more schools. We look for volunteers who can relate to the students they’re working with, either through having grown up in similar communities or simply by having an open mind.
Recommended reading and links:
Ice the Beef in the New Haven Independent
New Haven Register coverage of one of our events
New Haven Register coverage of one of Darrell’s motivational speaking engagements at Domus Academy