In keeping with Modest Needs' ongoing mission, 2005 was indeed a landmark year for Modest Needs in all respects, particularly in terms of our program service achievements.

The purpose of our annual report is to update the Modest Needs community on our program service achievements in 2005, with particular emphasis in our ongoing technical innovation, enhanced program capacity, and vastly increased public support of this unique charitable initiative.

Our Mission Statement

At Modest Needs, we work:

  • To prevent otherwise financially self-sufficient individuals and families from entering the cycle of poverty, when this might be avoided with a small amount of well-timed financial assistance;

  • To restore the financial self-sufficiency of individuals who are willing to work but are temporarily unable to do so because they do not have the means to remit payment for a work-related expense; and

  • To empower permanently disadvantaged individuals who otherwise live within their limited means to continue to live independently, despite a temporary, unexpected financial set-back.

Program Service Achievements through Technical Innovation

Because Modest Needs operates primarily in an online environment, the quality of the program services that we provide is directly related to the quality of the software that powers Modest Needs.

For this reason, in March 2005, and in response to three years of collating thoughtful feedback from Modest Needs' applicants and donors, Modest Needs launched an innovative new web-based platform designed to significantly enhance the experience both of those who come to Modest Needs seeking assistance, and those who support this work.

Specifically, our new and much more powerful software platform introduced the following four central program service enhancements:

  • A complete revision of Modest Needs' navigation, registration, and application system. Whereas our previous systems had been designed in such a way as to privilege our more 'computer-savvy' users, our new navigation and registration system is designed specifically to make our programs more accessible to applicants with limited computer experience, thereby significantly broadening the reach of Modest Needs itself.

  • A complete revision of Modest Needs' application form and review process. Whereas our application form in years past had provided us only with limited information about our applicants, our enhanced application system - itself based on similar systems used by leading public service organizations and the Federal government - offers Modest Needs' staff a much more complete picture of each applicant's specific situation and allows Modest Needs' staff to make nearly instant determinations as to whether a prospective applicant is a good candidate for the unique services that Modest Needs is designed to provide.

  • The implementation of a mechanism that allows for direct, hands-on participation by our donors in the grant making process. This mechanism allows Modest Needs' current donors to read and review via our website and in an anonymous environment all of Modest Needs' currently prequalified applications for assistance from Modest Needs and to 'score' each of these applications on a scale from 0-9. Our system, which is subject to strict internal controls designed to protect the integrity of the donor review process, calculates and reports an 'average' score for each application, which is visible only to Modest Needs' staff. In this way, and thanks to this new mechanism, Modest Needs' donors are able to offer direct input as to which applications they believe should receive funding priority during each of Modest Needs' weekly grant cycles.

  • The introduction of a secure, proprietary online giving system. Prior to 2005, Modest Needs' ability to accept secure online donations had been limited to the functionality provided by Paypal. In response to our donors' desire for a more secure and responsive way to support Modest Needs, we introduced in 2005 a robust and much more secure proprietary online donation mechanism powered by Bank of America and, the leaders in online security.

Response to these technological enhancements proved nothing short of overwhelming to Modest Needs. In 2005, website hits jumped to an average of 350,000 per week (18.2 million per year), an increase in program interest (and, by extension, program capacity) of more than 200% over 2004.

Enhancements to Program Capacity and Increased Donor Support

Prior to 2005, Modest Needs had operated primarily as a 'grass roots' organization and generally lacked the resources to significantly expand its program capacity. This changed when, in March 2005, Modest Needs was awarded its first major grant: a $150,000.00, three year capacity building grant from The Omidyar Network.

This grant, which funded all salaries, as well as most fundraising and management costs incured by Modest Needs in 2005, allowed for Modest Needs to commence operation from a physical office located in New York City and to add staff members appropriate to alleviate what had often been a 'backlog' of unprocessed applications for assistance.

Additionally, this operating grant had the following immediate and tangible effects on Modest Needs' program capacity:

  • For the first time in its history, Modest Needs was able to process new applications for assistance within 24 hours of their receipt in our office. In years past, the processing time for a new application had been up to one week.

  • In 2005, this generous grant made it possible for Modest Needs to allocate a full 100% of its individual donor dollars directly to program services. In 2005, support from individual donors totaled $395,200.00. In the same year, Modest Needs allocated $370,900.00 to programs while reserving $16,200.00 in individual donations (all received during the final days of 2005) for program service expenses the organization would incur in January 2006.

  • As a result of both this generous capacity-building grant and increased donor support, in 2005, Modest Needs was able to fund 741 individual grant applications reaching approximately 3,705 individuals. This represents an increase in program effectiveness and capacity of more than 69% over our 2004 Program Capacity.

Hurricane Katrina Relief

We at Modest Needs are perhaps most proud of our strong response to the crisis created by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

In August 2005, in response to the overwhelming need that had been created by the disastrous effects of Hurricane Katrina, Modest Needs launched a unique initiative designed specifically to aid those persons across the United States who had opened their homes to the displaced residents of the Gulf Coast. This innovative program provided direct support to those households in an effort to offer relief from the increased cost of housing multiple persons who were not members of the immediate household for an extended period of time.

Modest Needs' unique Hurricane Relief initiative resulted in a tremendous amount of press coverage, including a cover story in USA Today (12 September 2005). And in this case, our pledge to our donors was simple: we promised to allocate a full 100% of all contributions designed for 'Hurricane Relief' DIRECTLY to the families who had opened their homes to persons displaced by Hurricane Katrina.

In 2005, donors from across the United States contributed $94,387.00 to Modest Needs, designated for Hurricane Relief. In the same period, Modest Needs' independent auditor's report confirms that the organization disbursed $97,734.00 in specific assistance to individuals and families targeted by this program.

To publicize our Gulf Coast-related programs and as a 'thank you' for the donors who contributed to it, Modest Needs produced a short documentary film detailing our work directly with Gulf-Coast residents affected by Hurricane Katrina. This short film was sent to all donors on DVD during the 2005 Holiday Season.

2006 Matching Grant Award

In December 2005, in recognition of its work to date, Modest Needs Foundation was the recipient of an extraordinarily generous 'matching grant' from a family foundation that has initially requested to remain anonymous.

This grant - valued at $300,000.00 in 2006 - will match dollar for dollar every recurring donation made by an individual person to Modest Needs throughout 2006. (Note: 12 December 2006 - this grant has been renewed for 2007.)

In light of this tremendous incentive and Modest Needs' significant program accomplishments, particularly in 2005, we are confident that in 2006, we will be able to provide more direct assistance to individuals and families in short-term crisis than has ever before been possible for Modest Needs. For this honor above all, we thank you for your support of Modest Needs in 2005, and in the coming years.

--Dr. Keith P. Taylor, President / Executive Director, Modest Needs Foundation (1 June 2006)

2005 Financial Information at a Glance

Income and Expense Categories Amount
Income from Direct Public Support (Total Income) $545,203.00
Program Service Expenses (85.46%) $370,900.00
Management / Administrative Expenses (10.76%) $46,718.00
Fundraising Expenses (3.77%) $16,364.00
Total Expenses $433,982.00
Excess for FY 2005 $111,221.00
Net Assets, Beginning of Year $34,391.00
Net Assets, End of Year $145,612.00

You may view a breakdown of the functional expenses listed above by accessing either our FY 2005 Form 990 or our 2005 Independent Auditor's Report. Links to both in PDF Format are below.

Supporting Financial Documents for 2005

Please note: all documents below are in PDF format and can be viewed via the free Adobe Acrobat Reader.

Modest Needs Foundation - Roster of Board of Directors

Current as of 15 April 2007

  • John Arenberg, Chair
  • Elizabeth Kohen, Treasurer
  • Dr. Keith P. Taylor, President and Secretary to the Board of Directors
  • Thierry Mellon, Board Member
  • Zachary Mannheimer, Board Member

Would you like a hard copy of our 2005 Annual Report?

If you do not have regular internet access but would like to receive a hard copy of the Annual Report above, along with accompanying materials, please send your request to:

Modest Needs Foundation
115 E 30th St, FL 1
New York NY 10016

Alternatively, you may request a hard copy of this report by calling us at (212) 463-7042, x11.