In keeping with our commitment to operational transparency, Modest Needs publishes an annual report which is freely accessible to the public at large both via our website or in hard-copy.

The purpose of this annual report is to update interested persons on our prior year's program service achievements and to report on other significant accomplishments by Modest Needs throughout 2009.

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.

Responding to the Great Recession

As nearly all persons are aware, in October 2008, the United States entered the worst economic recession since the Great Depression. The impact of this economic recession in 2009 was devastating to individuals and businesses, including non-profit organizations. Despite increased demand for their services from a growing un- and under-employed population of workers, contributions to non-profit organizations decreased substantially and across the board in 2009 as foundations saw their assets reduced, and individuals had precious little extra to spare.

Modest Needs was not exempt from the impact of the economic recession of 2009. Indeed, after years of near-constant and substantial annual growth, during the first eight months of 2009, Modest Needs faced its first-ever budgetary shortfalls. Happily, over the years, we had built up a relatively small amount of surplus funding over the years, and we were able to use this surplus funding to sustain our operation during these intensely difficult times.

However, by August 2009, it had become clear to all of us at Modest Needs that, in light of the new economy in which we were living, it would be necessary for Modest Needs to significantly 'scale back' its own costs - and find ways to cut costs across the board - in the interest of reaching more people who needed our assistance in the most cost-effective way possible.

To that end, for Modest Needs, 2009 was a year in which we worked to respond as best we could to the needs of the newly unemployed while cutting costs across the board, both via the elimination of all extraneous expenses and the creation of innovative technology designed to help us do our work more efficiently. Along these lines, 2009 milestones included:

  • The introduction of a 'Bridge Grant' designed to assist the newly unemployed;
  • The closure of our San Francisco office; and
  • The invention and launch of software allowing for automated initial evaluation of new applications for assistance.

Modest Needs Introduces the 'Bridge Grant.'

Since Modest Needs' inception, and in keeping with our mission, we have required that our applicants be able to demonstrate their potential for 'self-sufficiency' prior to applying for our assistance. The economic realities of 2009, however, made it necessary for us to rethink this requirement. During the first quarter of 2009, we heard from hundreds of hard-working but newly unemployed individuals and families who had lost their jobs and were vigorously searching for work, but who needed help to keep everything they'd worked for - their homes, for example - as they vigilantly sought work.

In response to the changing reality of the American economy in 2009, in Q1 2009, Modest Needs designed and launched a 'Bridge Grant' program designed to assist the newly unemployed with a single, critical expense that would allow them to continue to seek employment without having to worry about, for example, immediately losing their homes or access to transportation.

Our 'Bridge Grant' turned out to be an enormous success and allowed Modest Needs to reach out to hundreds of persons who otherwise would not have qualified to apply for our assistance. We intend to keep our Bridge Grant active until such time as we determine that the need for it generally has subsided.

The Closure of our San Francisco Office

In 2008, Modest Needs received a grant sufficient to open and staff a 'satellite office' for a period of one year. We opted to locate our satellite office in San Francisco in an effort to better serve our donors and applicants living in the Mountain and Pacific Time Zones. This office opened in September 2008.

By July 2009, well before grant funding for our San Francisco office had been fully exhausted, it had become clear to us that the cost of operating a satellite office of this type far outweighed any benefit that such an office provided to our donors and our applicants.

Accordingly, in September 2009, once our initial years' funding for Modest Needs' San Francisco office had been fully exhausted, we made the decision to eliminate our West Coast office and return to our original operational model, which calls for Modest Needs to operate primarily in an online environment, accompanied by a single office designed to provide support to our donors and applicants living throughout the United States.

We anticipate that our decision to return to this operational model and eliminate our 'experimental' satellite office will restore as much as $250,000.00 in grant funding to Modest Needs in 2010 and in years going forward.

Towards Automated Application Processing

Because we have always recognized that every application for assistance we receive at Modest Need is unique, we have long resisted the implementation of any website programming that would have the effect of 'evaluating' applications. Rather, we prefer that all applications for assistance that we receive be evaluated by an actual person, as actual persons are in a better position to make determinations than any computer program might be.

At the same time, it must be said that, by 2008, the number of staff members necessary to manually read and review each one of the applications for assistance that Modest Needs receives on an annual basis had become shockingly cost-prohibitive. For the first time ever in 2008, payroll expenses at Modest Needs exceeded $800,000.00. These costs were paid in full by grants we solicited for this purpose, but that does not diminish the pure cost of an operational model that has individual people evaluating all applications Modest Needs receives, regardless of whether that application might be appropriate to one of our grant programs.

By mid-2009, we ultimately determined that, given what was at that time the amount of funding available to Modest Needs from all sources, Modest Needs simply could no longer afford to sustain a staff of the size necessary to evaluate each and every application received by Modest Needs. At the same time, we refused to move to an operational model whereby applications were evaluated entirely in a computer-assisted environment.

As a kind of 'compromise' between these two possibilities, in November 2009, after months of programming, Modest Needs launched new programming designed to lessen the burden of those persons charged with the evaluation and vetting of the many thousands of applications for assistance that Modest Needs receives annually. This programming, which we term our 'Application Wizard,' works to screen out applications inappropriate to any of Modest Needs' grant types, thereby freeing up Modest Needs' Client Advocacy Specialists to work almost exclusively with those grant applications that do fit squarely within Modest Needs' funding guidelines.

So far, in 2010, the implementation of this software and revision of our operational model has reduced Modest Needs' staff costs by nearly $400,000.00 without compromising either the quality of our work or the 'individual touch' that distinguishes Modest Needs from organizations doing similar types of work. We are exceptionally proud of this development.

A Last-Minute Miracle

We had been all but certain that, given the state of our economy, in 2009, Modest Needs would post its first ever annual loss. Happily, this did not happen.

Instead, in November 2009, Modest Needs received a last-minute matching grant in the amount of $300,000.00. The value of this grant was more than doubled as a result of Modest Needs' having been featured by on 23 December 2009. On that day, individual donors gave more than $100,000.00 to Modest Needs, generally in increments ranging from $5.00 to $100.00

In the final analysis, Modest Needs' final quarter of 2009 allowed us to restore our previously depleted reserves while funding an unprecedented number of applications for assistance, and we begin 2010 having re-centered ourselves and able to do more work more efficiently than ever before.

--Dr. Keith P. Taylor, President / Executive Director, Modest Needs Foundation (15 September 2010)

2009 Financial Information at a Glance

Income and Expense Categories Amount
Income from Direct Public Support (Total Income) $2,704,783.00
Program Service Expenses (88.39%) $2,347,452.00
Management / Administrative Expenses (7.28%) $193,296.00
Fundraising Expenses (4.33%) $114,998
Total Expenses $2,655,746.00
Revenue over Expenses for FY 2009 $49,037.00
Net Assets, Beginning of Year $439,558.00
Net Assets, End of Year $488,595.00

You may view a breakdown of the functional expenses listed above by accessing either our FY 2009 Form 990 or our 2009 Independent Auditor's Report. Links to both in PDF Format are below.

Notes Concerning Administrative, Fundraising, and Employee-Related Expenses in 2009

In 2009, all of Modest Needs' management, fundraising, and employee-related expenses were paid in full by grants made to the organization for this purpose. In keeping with our ongoing operational model.

Thanks to the generosity of our major funders, in 2009, Modest Needs' donors bore none of responsibility for the costs involved in the day-to-day operation of Modest Needs.

Supporting Financial Documents for 2009

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 31 December 2009

  • Robert Amato, Chair
  • Dr. Keith P. Taylor, President
  • John Arenberg, Vice-Chair / Treasurer
  • Todd Spicer, Secretary
  • Thierry Mellon, Board Member

Would you like a hard copy of our 2009 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, x13 .