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ProLiteracy, also known as ProLiteracy Worldwide, is an international nonprofit organization that supports literacy programs that help adults learn to read and write. Based in Syracuse (New York), ProLiteracy has over 800 member programs in the U.S. and is active in 20 developing countries.
ProLiteracy was formed when Laubach Literacy International and Literacy Volunteers of America, Inc. merged in 2002.
Laubach Literacy International's history began in 1930, when Dr. Frank C. Laubach, missionary among the Maranao people of the Philippines, decided that solving poverty meant to educate in literacy. From 1935 to 1967, Dr. Laubach visited 105 countries answering calls for literacy help and created reading lessons in 315 languages. He founded Laubach Literacy International in Syracuse, N.Y. in 1955.
ProLiteracy's Programs division works in the U.S. and around the world. ProLiteracy has grassroots partner programs in developing countries in Asia, Africa, Latin America, and the Middle East. ProLiteracy provides training, technical assistance, and targeted local grants to support tailored programs that combine literacy with economic self-reliance, health, education, peace, human rights, and environmental sustainability projects.
In the U.S., ProLiteracy represents over 1,000 community-based volunteer and adult basic education affiliates in 49 states and the District of Columbia. ProLiteracy accredits programs and supports them with technical assistance and program and professional development services online, in regional trainings, and at a biennial conference. ProLiteracy also serves as an advocate for issues related to adult literacy and lifelong learning.
New Readers Press, ProLiteracy's publishing house, generates $7 million in revenue annually through the sale of materials used in teaching adults and older teens. Proceeds from these sales support the services that ProLiteracy offers to literacy practitioners. News for You, published by New Readers Press, is a weekly online and print news source for English language learners and basic literacy students.
The National Book Fund (NBF) gives grants of New Readers Press books and materials directly to local literacy service providers. The NBF provides books for family literacy programs that work with parents and children, English-as-a-second-language (ESL) programs, adult basic education initiatives, and women-focused programming.
ProLiteracy began its Women In Literacy (WIL) initiative in 1991 in response to the particular needs of women. Cultural traditions and local laws often favor men, allowing them access to education, property, employment, health care, and participation in government that is denied to women. ProLiteracy's Women in Literacy initiative gives women the literacy skills they need to understand and change their daily lives. Women hold key leadership positions in more than 80 percent of WIL partner programs.
About 60 percent of ProLiteracy's funding comes from sales of its educational materials. About 35 percent comes from private sources, including individuals, corporations, and foundations. The remainder comes from affiliate dues and investment income. In 1997, author Nora Roberts donated damages awarded from a plagiarism lawsuit to the organization.
In 2011, more than 81 percent of donor contributions were allocated to program expenses.
A 2017 report by the Better Business Bureau's Wise Giving Alliance (WGA) found that ProLiteracy met all of its standards for charity accountability. The WGA found that ProLiteracy is truthful in its representations of how money is spent, does not allocate an excessive part of its budget for fundraising or administrative expenses, and makes its financial statements readily available to the public.
From 2009 to 2013, under then-President and CEO David C. Harvey, ProLiteracy faced severe financial issues, with a $1.8 million shortfall and a $1.7 million loss in net assets in 2012. Moving their headquarters to a revitalized warehouse and investing in the local Syracuse, NY community were contributing factors in the shortfall, including its newly-opened Ruth J. Colvin Center for Innovation and Excellence in Adult Literacy, a public computer lab designed to teach adults computer literacy.
Six months after the move to ProLiteracy's new headquarters, Harvey resigned as President and CEO. Kevin J. Morgan, Chairman of the Board of Directors since 2009, stated that Harvey "went on to pursue other opportunities in the Washington, D.C., area, and let's leave it at that". Despite likely being a significant contributing factor to the financial mismanagement leading to the crisis, Harvey himself purported to have "Led a turn-around operation for a $9 million international organization" during said pursuit of "other opportunities in the Washington, D.C., area". Harvey has been the Executive Director of the National Coalition of STD Directors since 2016.
Morgan, who received his graduate degree in marketing from DeVry University, was appointed Interim President and CEO, dividing his time between ProLiteracy and Full Suspension Marketing, a small, Utah-based startup and marketing agency he founded in 2007. The ProLiteracy Board of Directors then "formed a search committee for a new president and CEO," said Morgan, concluding that "sometimes it happens quickly, other times it may take some time, depending on who you talk to".
Despite raising over $1 million in charitable donations to refurbish ProLiteracy's new headquarters in the midst of the crisis, it faced yet another shortfall of $1.2 million in 2013, receiving a 1-star rating on Charity Navigator following nearly a decade of fluctuating between 1- and 2-stars, prompting Harvey's 2010 public criticism of the charity watchdog as an "imperfect way to assess" .
During the following fiscal year, ProLiteracy downsized considerably, laying off the majority of its full-time staff and shutting down budding investments into the local Syracuse, NY community. Furthermore, ProLiteracy significantly reduced its international involvement from 30 to 20 countries. In effect, ProLiteracy ended its 2014 fiscal year with $3 million in revenues less expenses and nearly double their net assets, from $3.3 to $6.3 million. The search committee dissolved, as did Morgan's marketing agency, and he remains President and CEO to this day. In 2017, ProLiteracy was awarded its first 4-star rating from Charity Navigator, a composite of a 3-star rating in financial health and 4-star rating in accountability and transparency.