Mission: At Summer Search, we believe our world is better off when
everyone can discover their purpose. Yet, for too many
bright young people, obstacles unfairly block their search.
Every day we connect students to expansive opportunities.
And we show them they possess not just the talent, but also
the inner strength to carve their place in the world.
Because when each of us cultivates the power and courage
inside us, we become unstoppable. Our is mission is to unleash students' potential through mentoring and transformative experiences.

Summer Search is a 501(c)(3) organization, with an IRS ruling year of 1990, and donations are tax-deductible.

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Contact Information


  304 12th Street
Suite 4A
Oakland CA 94607 

   Mail donations to:
PO BOX 7731
San Francisco CA 94120


You are viewing this organization's new Charity Navigator profile page. To view the legacy version, click here.

Star Rating System by Charity Navigator

Charity Navigator evaluates a nonprofit organization’s financial health including measures of stability, efficiency and sustainability. We also track accountability and transparency policies to ensure the good governance and integrity of the organization.


This charity's score is 84.37, earning it a 3-Star rating. Donors can "Give with Confidence" to this charity. 

This score is calculated from two sub-scores:

This score represents Form 990 data from 2019, the latest year published by the IRS.

View this organization’s historical ratings.

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Star Rated Report

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Program Expense

Program Expense Ratio


The Program Expense Ratio is determined by Program Expenses divided by Total Expense (average of most recent three 990s).

This measure reflects the percent of its total expenses a charity spends on the programs and services it exists to deliver. Dividing a charity's average program expenses by its average total functional expenses yields this percentage. We calculate the charity's average expenses over its three most recent fiscal years.

Source: IRS Form 990

Administrative Expenses


As reported by charities on their IRS Form 990, this measure reflects what percent of its total budget a charity spends on overhead, administrative staff and associated costs, and organizational meetings. Dividing a charity's average administrative expenses by its average total functional expenses yields this percentage. We calculate the charity's average expenses over its three most recent fiscal years.

Source: IRS Form 990

Fundraising Expenses


This measure reflects what a charity spends to raise money. Fundraising expenses can include campaign printing, publicity, mailing, and staffing and costs incurred in soliciting donations, memberships, and grants. Dividing a charity's average fundraising expenses by its average total functional expenses yields this percentage. We calculate the charity's average expenses over its three most recent fiscal years.

Source: IRS Form 990

Liabilities to Assets Ratio


The Liabilities to Assets Ratio is determined by Total Liabilities divided by Total Assets (most recent 990).

Part of our goal in rating the financial performance of charities is to help donors assess the financial capacity and sustainability of a charity. As do organizations in other sectors, charities must be mindful of their management of total liabilites in relation to their total assets. This ratio is an indicator of an organization’s solvency and or long term sustainability. Dividing a charity's total liabilities by its total assets yields this percentage.

Source: IRS Form 990

Fundraising Efficiency


The amount spent to raise $1 in charitable contributions. To calculate a charity's fundraising efficiency, we divide its average fundraising expenses by the average total contributions it receives. We calculate the charity's average expenses and average contributions over its three most recent fiscal years.

Source: IRS Form 990

Working Capital Ratio

0.38 years

Determines how long a charity could sustain its level of spending using its net available assets, or working capital, as reported on its most recently filed Form 990. We include in a charity's working capital unrestricted and temporarily restricted net assets, and exclude permanently restricted net assets. Dividing these net available assets in the most recent year by a charity's average total expenses, yields the working capital ratio. We calculate the charity's average total expenses over its three most recent fiscal years.

Source: IRS Form 990

Program Expense Growth


We compute the average annual growth of program expenses using the following formula: [(Yn/Y0)(1/n)]-1, where Y0 is a charity's program expenses in the first year of the interval analyzed, Yn is the charity's program expenses in the most recent year, and n is the interval of years passed between Y0 and Yn.

Source: IRS Form 990


Charity Navigator looks to confirm on the Form 990 that the organization has these governance practices in place.

Sources Include: IRS Form 990

Independent Voting Board Members  ... (More)
No Material Diversion of Assets ... (More)

A diversion of assets – any unauthorized conversion or use of the organization's assets other than for the organization's authorized purposes, including but not limited to embezzlement or theft – can seriously call into question a charity's financial integrity. We check the charity's last two Forms 990 to see if the charity has reported any diversion of assets. If the charity does report a diversion, then we check to see if it complied with the Form 990 instructions by describing what happened and its corrective action. This metric will be assigned to one of the following categories:

  • Full Credit: There has been no diversion of assets within the last two years.

  • Partial Credit: There has been a diversion of assets within the last two years and the charity has used Schedule O on the Form 990 to explain: the nature of the diversion, the amount of money or property involved and the corrective action taken to address the matter. In this situation, we deduct 7 points from the charity's Accountability and Transparency score.
  • No Credit: There has been a diversion of assets within the last two years and the charity's explanation on Schedule O is either non-existent or not sufficient. In this case, we deduct 15 points from the charity's Accountability and Transparency score.
Audited Financials Prepared by Independent Accountant ... (More)

Audited financial statements provide important information about financial accountability and accuracy. They should be prepared by an independent accountant with oversight from an audit committee. (It is not necessary that the audit committee be a separate committee. Often at smaller charities, it falls within the responsibilities of the finance committee or the executive committee.) The committee provides an important oversight layer between the management of the organization, which is responsible for the financial information reported, and the independent accountant, who reviews the financials and issues an opinion based on its findings. We check the charity's Form 990 reporting to see if it meets this criteria.

  • Full Credit: The charity's audited financials were prepared by an independent accountant with an audit oversight committee.

  • Partial Credit: The charity's audited financials were prepared by an independent accountant, but it did not have an audit oversight committee. In this case, we deduct 7 points from the charity's Accountability and Transparency score.
  • No Credit: The charity did not have its audited financials prepared by an independent accountant. In this case, we deduct 15 points from the charity's Accountability and Transparency score.
Does Not Provide Loan(s) to or Receive Loan(s) From Related Parties ... (More)
Documents Board Meeting Minutes ... (More)
Distributes 990 to Board Before Filing ... (More)
Compensates Board ... (More)


Charity Navigator looks to confirm on the Form 990, or for some metrics on the charity's website, that the organization has these policies in place.

Sources Include: IRS Form 990 and organization's website

Conflict of Interest  ... (More)
Whistleblower ... (More)
Records Retention and Destruction ... (More)
CEO Compensation Process ... (More)
Donor Privacy ... (More)

Donors can be reluctant to contribute to a charity when their name, address, or other basic information may become part of donor lists that are exchanged or sold, resulting in an influx of charitable solicitations from other organizations. Our analysts check the charity's website to see if the organization has a donor privacy policy in place and what it does and does not cover. Privacy policies are assigned to one of the following categories:

  • Yes: This charity has a written donor privacy policy published on its website, which states unambiguously that (1) it will not share or sell a donor's personal information with anyone else, nor send donor mailings on behalf of other organizations or (2) it will only share or sell personal information once the donor has given the charity specific permission to do so.

  • Opt-out: The charity has a written privacy policy published on its website which enables donors to tell the charity to remove their names and contact information from lists the charity shares or sells. How a donor can have themselves removed from a list differs from one charity to the next, but any and all opt-out policies require donors to take specific action to protect their privacy.
  • No: This charity either does not have a written donor privacy policy in place to protect their contributors' personal information, or the existing policy does not meet our criteria.

The privacy policy must be specific to donor information. A general website policy which references "visitor" or "user" personal information will not suffice. A policy that refers to donor information collected on the website is also not sufficient as the policy must be comprehensive and applicable to both online and offline donors. The existence of a privacy policy of any type does not prohibit the charity itself from contacting the donor for informational, educational, or solicitation purposes.



Charity Navigator looks to confirm on the Form 990, or for some metrics on the charity's website, that the organization makes this information easily accessible.

Sources Include: IRS Form 990 and organization's website

CEO Salary Listed on 990 ... (More)
Board of Directors Listed on Website ... (More)
Key Staff Listed on Website ... (More)
Audited Financial Statements on Website ... (More)
Form 990 Available on Website ... (More)

Additional Information


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Total Revenue and Expenses

Total Revenue and Expenses

This chart displays the trend of revenue and expenses over the past several years for this organization, as reported on their IRS Form 990.

Salary of Key Persons

Presented here are this organizations key compensated staff members as identified by our analysts. This compensation data includes salary, cash bonuses and expense accounts and is displayed exactly how it is reported to the IRS. The amounts do not include nontaxable benefits, deferred compensation, or other amounts not reported on Form W-2. In some cases, these amounts may include compensation from related organizations. Read the IRS policies for compensation reporting

Marc Spencer, CEO and President

$323,031 (1.43% of Total Expenses)

Current CEO and Board Chair can be found in the Leadership & Adaptability report below.

Source: IRS Form 990 (page 7), filing year 2019

Business Master File Data

Below are some key data points from the Exempt Organization IRS Business Master File (BMF) for this organization. Learn more about the BMF on the IRS website


Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, etc. (BMF activity code: 320)

Foundation Status:

Organization which receives a substantial part of its support from a governmental unit or the general public   170(b)(1)(A)(vi) (BMF foundation code: 15)


Independent - the organization is an independent organization or an independent auxiliary (i.e., not affiliated with a National, Regional, or Geographic grouping of organizations). (BMF affiliation code: 3)

Data Sources: IRS Forms 990

The Form 990 is a document that nonprofit organizations file with the IRS annually. We leverage finance and accountability data from it to form Encompass ratings. Click here to view this organization's Forms 990 on the IRS website (if any are available).

Pandemic Response

Due to the unprecedented nature of the pandemic, we give charities such as this one the opportunity to share the story of COVID's impact on them. Charities may submit their own pandemic responses through their nonprofit portal.

Summer Search reported being impacted by COVID-19 in the following ways:
  • Program Delivery

  • Fundraising Capacity

  • Revenue

  • Staffing

  • Balance Sheet

How COVID-19 impacted the organization's operations financially:

Summer Search launched a multi-year giving strategy at the start of FY21, with a goal to raise $75M through FY23. We surpassed 50% of the campaign goal within the first 11 months, including $23.2M organization wide for FY21, $7.9M for FY22, and $6.1M for FY23. FY21 revenue includes a $2.48M Paycheck Protection Program loan that was approved in April 2020 and forgiven in full in June 2021. The early success of the campaign also enabled us to establish a $5M network-wide reserve in FY21. We ended FY20 in a strong financial position. We had a revenue gap of $1.89 million from our original fundraising target because of COVID-19’s impact on the economy and our fundraising model (specifically, the cancellation of in-person fundraising events). We also had a year-end expense savings of $3.49 million (largely due to the necessary shift from in-person and summer travel and experiences to virtual offerings), resulting in a $1.6M surplus. This amount includes the budgeted surplus of $239K.

How COVID-19 impacted the organization's delivery of programs:

Weekly mentoring for high school students has continued uninterrupted, with mentoring conversations, post-secondary advising, workshops, and program events shifting from in-person meetings to phone and video calls. Our community acted quickly to develop opportunities for engaging experiences in our first-ever virtual summer in 2020, during which students took part in 60+ virtual programs. In summer 2021, more than 300 students participated in a combination of in-person and virtual experiences that were engaging, challenging, and safe. These ranged from coding and environmental justice programs, to college courses and internships, to expeditions in the great outdoors. We’ve also maintained support for post-secondary students by providing online mentoring, peer connection opportunities, home learning resources, and virtual professional development advising that featured alumni panels, career coaching, and strategies for adapting to the new reality and standing out to employers.

How this organization adapted to changing conditions caused by COVID-19:

As described above, we began offering virtual programming for the first time. In response to stay at home orders, we shifted to fully-remote operations to help limit our staff’s exposure to COVID-19. We continue to prioritize staff well-being by providing flexible sick leave, accommodating flexible schedules, supplementing federal benefits, and providing a range of supports to promote mental health and self-care. In summer 2021, we provided staff with the option to work from the office. In March 2020, we launched an emergency fund to help our students and families who were facing urgent expenses related to COVID-19. These funds provided critical aid to our students and families with rent, utilities, groceries, medical bills, and technology needs. The funding also supported our postsecondary students with travel expenses and lost wages for those who had to unexpectedly leave campus. Thanks to our generous community, we distributed more than $345,000 to students and their families.

Innovations the organization intends to continue permanently after the pandemic:

While we hope to be able to return to in-person individual and group mentoring sessions as soon as it is safe, we plan to continue offering participants the option to connect virtually in order to accommodate students’ needs and preferences. We will also continue to explore virtual summer experiences for participants, including thematic workshops, externships, and internships.

Historical Ratings

Date PublishedForm 990 FYEOverall ScoreOverall Rating
Rating Version: 2.1
3/1/20212019 84.37
12/20/20192018 80.81
2/1/20192017 79.19
9/1/20172016 82.27
10/1/20162015 83.52
6/1/20162014 86.59
Rating Version: 2.0
11/1/20152014 85.66
9/1/20142013 87.71
8/1/20132012 88.01
6/1/20122011 92.87
11/1/20112010 91.06
9/20/20112009 92.24
Rating Version: 1.0
12/22/20102009 89.79

...   Impact & Results

This score estimates the actual impact a nonprofit has on the lives of those it serves, and determines whether it is making good use of donor resources to achieve that impact.

Impact & Results Score

Not Currently Scored

Summer Search cannot currently be evaluated by our Encompass Rating Impact & Results methodology because either (A) it is eligible, but we have not yet received data; (B) we have not yet developed an algorithm to estimate its programmatic impact; (C) its programs are not direct services; or (D) it is not heavily reliant on contributions from individual donors.

Note: The absence of a score does not indicate a positive or negative assessment, it only indicates that we have not yet evaluated the organization.

Learn more about Impact & Results.

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Additional Information


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Largest Programs

Largest Programs

Summer Search reported its three largest programs on its FY 2019 Form 990 as:


Spent in most recent FY


Percent of program expenses

SUMMER PLACEMENT AND MENTORING: Each student receives two full scholarships to life-changing summer experiential education programs, including wilderness leadership expeditions, academic enrichment pr ... (More)


Spent in most recent FY


Percent of program expenses

Staff training and development: Summer Search conducts a strong training effort to teach the uniquely effective interview process that identifies students that have leadership potential through an ori ... (More)


Spent in most recent FY


Percent of program expenses

Post-secondary success: Summer Search knows that it is not enough to get students to college, but it is important to support them so they can attain a Bachelor's degree and are set up for future succe ... (More)

...   Leadership & Adaptability

This score provides an assessment of the organization's leadership capacity, strategic thinking and planning, and ability to innovate or respond to changes in constituent demand/need or other relevant social and economic conditions to achieve the organization's mission.

Leadership & Adaptability Score


out of 100

The score earned by Summer Search is a passing score. This score has no effect on the organization's Star Rating.

Encompass Rating V4 provides an evaluation of the organization's Leadership & Adaptability through the nonprofit organization submitting a survey response directly to Charity Navigator.

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Leadership & Adaptability Report


of 100 points


The nonprofit organization presents evidence of strategic thinking through articulating the organization’s mission

Summer Search’s mission is to unleash students' potential through mentoring and transformative experiences.

Source: Nonprofit submitted responses


The nonprofit organization presents evidence of strategic thinking through articulating the organization’s vision.

A world in which young people, regardless of circumstances, can fulfill their potential and lead their families and communities to thrive.

Source: Nonprofit submitted responses

Strategic Goals

The nonprofit organization presents evidence of strategic thinking and goal setting through sharing their most important strategic goals.

Goal One: Scale group mentoring to all five Summer Search regions and grow sophomore recruitment by 40%. Scale Depth Mentoring Institute to deliver high quality training to every mentor and 2-3 partner orgs.

Goal Type: Grow, expand, scale or increase access to the existing programs and services.

Goal Two: Build a financial foundation for future growth and stability. Meet or exceed our three-year $75MM comprehensive campaign goal. Establish network-wide reserve at $5MM and grow regional reserves.

Goal Type: Invest in the capacity of our organization (financial, management, technical, etc.).

Goal Three: Redesign Post-Secondary Program to align with our expanded outcomes of educational attainment, career readiness, and financial well-being.

Goal Type: New program(s) based on observed changes in needs among our constituencies/communities served.

Source: Nonprofit submitted responses

Leadership Development

The nonprofit provides evidence of investment in leadership development

Describe an investment in leadership

In FY20, we committed to a year-long, quarterly manager training series to address skill development around both hard and soft skill for all people managers. The series was complemented by quarterly manager round tables where managers could share challenges and successes with the application of the training material and/or raise other challenges, and gain support from peers. Lastly, managers had access to a robust, online library of people management tools and resources through a platform called Franklin Covey & Jhana. An internal talent website provides managers with a comprehensive set of tools to support the full employee life cycle, including recruitment, hiring, onboarding, goal setting, performance management, and off-boarding. All staff receive a $200 annual professional development and well-being stipend. In order to identify specific opportunities for leadership development and to support long-term stability, all executive leadership are finalizing succession plans.

Source: Nonprofit submitted responses

Mobilizing for Mission

The nonprofit provides evidence of leadership through focusing externally and mobilizing resources for the mission.

This organization mobilizes for mission in the following ways:
  • Strategic Partnerships

  • Networks of Collective Impact Efforts

  • Thought Leadership

  • Raising Awareness

  • Community Building

What are this organization’s external mobilizaton efforts?

Summer Search launched the Black Lives Matter Community Series in June 2020 to come together to heal, learn together and discuss how we all can take action to create a world where all young people can thrive. Our first session, a Community Healing Vigil, filled our hearts with hope. Our second session focused on education and attracted external experts who provided us with critical answers to poignant questions. Our third session offered ideas and strategies from the fields of education and psychology on how to move forward towards a just and equitable society. In early 2021, this series evolved into Championing for Justice & Equity, a three-year conversation series—free and open to the public—featuring experts on race, justice and systemic inequity. We also maintain a website, blog, newsletter and Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn accounts, where we publish stories that amplify and illustrate the impact of our depth mentoring approach on young people across the country.

Source: Nonprofit submitted responses

Story of Adaptability

The nonprofit has an opportunity to tell the story of how the organization adapted to tremendous external changes in the last year.

Fundraising & Capacity Building Summer Search’s fundraising and revenue model has traditionally been heavily dependent on annual fundraising events, which provide much-needed unrestricted support. Considering the necessary cancellation of these events and the shift to a virtual format following the stay-at-home orders in 2020, we launched a multi-year campaign strategy that reduces our reliance on events and provides both the stability and flexibility to execute on our multi-year strategic vision for programmatic and organizational growth. The early success of this FY21-FY23 campaign, which surpassed 50% of the $75M goal within the first 11 months, allowed us to establish and fully fund a $5M network-wide rainy-day fund in September 2021. This fund will help to ensure the resilience of all five Summer Search sites. Student and Staff Well-Being Summer Search quickly shifted all programming and operations virtually in March 2020 to ensure the safety and well-being of all our program participants and staff. Our team worked tirelessly to ensure that mentoring continued uninterrupted and created engaging, challenging, and rewarding virtual experiences to ensure that participants felt connected to and supported by the Summer Search community during this extremely challenging and, in many cases, isolating time. In addition to providing flexible sick leave and work schedules, Summer Search's senior management team instituted new wellness practices for staff, such as half-days on the first Friday of the month, and individual wellness and technology stipends. In alignment with local school district requirements and FDA approval of the COVID-19 vaccination for general use, we have created a policy that requires all staff be vaccinated, with accommodation for medical or religious exemptions. We are proud that we kept 100% of staff employed throughout the pandemic, a commitment we made regardless of our fundraising status.

Source: Nonprofit submitted responses

Additional Information


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Organization Leadership

Organization Leadership

Dr. Marc Spencer

Chief Executive Officer

Teke Kelley


...   Culture & Community

This score provides an assessment of the organization's engagement with the constituents it serves, a practice we term Constituent Feedback. When organizations listen to constituents, they are able to better deliver on programs and meet the needs of stakeholders. A future version of this Beacon will also assess an organization's people operations and its Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) metrics.

Culture & Community Score


out of 100

The score earned by Summer Search is a passing score. This score has no effect on the organization's Star Rating.

Encompass Rating V4 provides an evaluation of an organization's Culture and Community by measuring its Constituent Feedback practices (see report below). Constituent Feedback data provides 100% of the basis for the initial evaluation of the Culture & Community Beacon.

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Culture & Community Report


of 100 points

This beta feature is currently viewable only on desktop or tablet screens. Check back later for updates.

Constituent Feedback

Constituent Feedback

Full Credit

This organization reported that it is collecting feedback.

Here's how this organization is listening and learning from the people they serve:

How is your organization collecting feedback from the people you serve?

Electronic surveys (by email, tablet, etc.), Focus groups or interviews (by phone or in person), Case management notes, Constituent (client or resident, etc.) advisory committees, Suggestion box/email

How is your organization using feedback from the people you serve?

To identify and remedy poor client service experiences, To identify bright spots and enhance positive service experiences, To make fundamental changes to our programs and/or operations, To inform the development of new programs/projects, To identify where we are less inclusive or equitable across demographic groups, To strengthen relationships with the people we serve

With whom does your organization share the feedback you got from the people you serve?

The people we serve, Our staff, Our board, Our funders, Our community partners

What challenges does your organization face in collecting feedback from the people you serve?

It is difficult to get the people we serve to respond to requests for feedback, It is difficult to find the ongoing funding to support feedback collection

Briefly describe a recent change that your organization made in response to feedback from the people you serve.

In 2018, Summer Search set out to hear from the voices of current students and alumni to help guide its 2019 – 2022 strategic plan. We learned that in addition to graduating from college at remarkably higher rates than students with similar backgrounds, our students’ hope and dreams for our program’s impact extend to launching their career, securing their financial future, and building lives with purpose. Our current strategic plan calls for our programming to evolve to support these broader visions of success. We have updated our Theory of Change and Logic Model to reflect a broader set of short, mid and long-term outcomes and we are in the process of refreshing our current programming to ensure it supports our new outcomes.


Charity Navigator believes nonprofit organizations that engage in inclusive practices, such as collecting feedback from the people and communities they serve, may be more effective. We've partnered with GuideStar by Candid to survey organizations about their feedback practices. Nonprofit organizations can fill out the How We Listen section of their Candid profile to receive a rating.

Charity Navigator awards full credit for this Beacon to every nonprofit that is eligible for an Encompass Rating that completes the survey, in recognition of their willingness to publicly share this information with the nonprofit and philanthropic communities. This data is not evaluated for quality at this time. Validation will be added in future iterations of this Beacon.

Analysis and Research

Like the overall Encompass Rating System, the Culture & Community Beacon is designed to evolve as metrics are developed and ready for integration. Our partnership with Feedback Labs and Guidestar by Candid, and other partners including Fund for Shared Insight, GlobalGiving, and Keystone Accountability, enables us to launch the first version of this beacon with Constituent Feedback information collected on Candid's site.

Feedback practices have been shown to support better Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion outcomes, an essential area of assessment that we intend to further expand and develop in the future. Feedback Labs has documented several studies which indicate that beyond achieving organizational goals, nonprofits that are attentive and responsive to concerns and ideas raised by beneficiaries establish stronger relationships with the people they serve, promote greater equity, and empower constituents in ways that can help to ensure better long-term outcomes. You can find resources to help nonprofits improve their feedback practices here.

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