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Making an Impact: AlphaSights’ Partnership with Access Institute

September 13 |

This quarter,  AlphaSights selected Access Institute for Psychological Services as its charity partner. AlphaSights Client Service Managers, Natalie Rasmus in our SF office and Eve Thomson from our NY office sat down with Azita Ghafourpour, Director of Development at Access Institute to learn more about the organization and her involvement.

Azita’s Background

Tell us more about you and your background/career trajectory.

A headshot of Azita Ghafourpour, the Director of Development at Access Institute, AlphaSights' charity partnerBefore joining Access Institute, I was a senior trial attorney at the San Francisco Office of the Public Defender for several years. Each day I was in the courtroom defending my clients’ civil rights. I helped them address challenges related to involvement in the criminal system, such as mental illness, homelessness, complex trauma, immigration status, extreme poverty, and addiction. I’ve always been passionate about fighting for social justice, defending civil rights, and advocating for vulnerable populations. Joining Access Institute was a natural transition for me since it’s committed to providing comprehensive mental health services to those in need.

Did you always want to be involved with a philanthropic organization?

I’ve always been committed to working for organizations that addressed the needs of marginalized individuals, whether through a nonprofit organization or city agency. I’ve only held jobs that I felt passionate about and that I felt enabled me to make an impact.

How did you get involved with Access Institute and what attracted you to the organization?

A friend of mine piqued my interest in Access Institute when she spoke very highly of the mental health services they provide. I did my research, met with the Executive Director and one of the board members, and quickly knew I wanted to join their team and advance their mission. I believe in Access Institute’s mission to provide mental health services to people who otherwise wouldn’t have access to treatment and I value that we provide services to people of all ages.

We offer early intervention treatment for children, understanding that the earlier we begin treatment, the greater chance we have of making an impact. On the opposite end, we also offer services to seniors, who often are isolated and neglected. They deserve to age with dignity and have their psychological needs met. By bringing mental health care to a senior center in the Bayview neighborhood, Access Institute addresses barriers to treatment for seniors such as physical limitations, lack of transportation, stigma, and poverty.

About Access Institute

What is the founding story behind Access Institute?

Access Institute was founded in 2002 in response to funding cutbacks in the public health system and hospital-based clinic closures, leaving vulnerable people without essential services. We were created to make quality mental health care accessible for individuals and families with low income, inadequate insurance, and/or who can’t afford high co-pays and deductibles.

Why is the Access Institute’s mission important right now?

Calls to our clinic have risen, proving that people need and are reaching out for help. Whether someone is in crisis, suffering from ongoing depression, or needs support for their overall emotional well-being, our mission is to provide the care they need for as long as they need it.  We also provide help for seniors and elementary school children who aren’t able to come to our clinic through community partnerships.

Tell us more about the In-School Mental Health Program

Our program provides free mental health care to at-risk children in seven public elementary schools in San Francisco. We focus on healing childhood trauma and building healthier family and school environments. All of the children in our program are from low-income, high-risk families.

Without appropriate intervention, trauma may interfere with how children function in school, develop relationships, and make critical life decisions. Children with trauma histories often have trouble sleeping, struggle to focus and absorb information throughout the day, and have difficulty handling emotions, which leads to outbursts in class or withdrawal. These are the children that we aim to help.

What is your short-term and long-term vision for Access Institute?

Over the next 1-3 years, we plan to increase training and mentoring for teachers and school support staff, particularly in trauma-informed care. It’s important to provide staff with the right tools so they can support students’ psychological needs. Long-term, we hope to expand our In-School Mental Health Program to additional schools. We launched our program at three schools, and over the past few years expanded to seven. With increased support from our community, we will continue to grow.

How do you define and measure the program’s success?

We focus on quality, not quantity. Each child in our program receives a thorough clinical evaluation, including developmental history, assessment of behavioral and mental functioning, psychiatric diagnosis, and treatment plan. We carefully track the progress of each child and year after year, the data shows that our treatment model is working. A majority of the children we serve show measurable improvement in psychological functioning, school behavior, and relationships with family members and peers. We’re changing the lives and futures of children, one child at a time. That’s how we define success.

Image of a woman and a boy playing the board game, "Sorry"

Personal Experiences, Advice, and How to Get Involved

What’s the most meaningful experience you’ve had while working at Access? When have you seen the most impact regarding the in-school program?

When I was spending time at one of our partner schools, I saw a bunch of kids flock to our therapist when he arrived. They surrounded him and walked with him around the playground. It was an amazing thing to see ─ unlike many older generations, these kids weren’t ashamed or embarrassed to be with a therapist; there wasn’t a negative stigma. Due to our presence at the school, these kids learned at a young age that there is no shame in seeking help and speaking with a therapist. I saw first-hand how we’re helping to eliminate and prevent the stigma around mental health treatment in younger generations.

How do you recommend getting involved in charity organizations as a young professional?

You can get involved in charity in so many ways; make it work for you. Volunteer for the organization, offer your professional services, join a Board of Directors, promote the charity’s mission with your colleagues and friends, attend fundraisers, use social media to spotlight the importance of a charity’s mission, and of course, donate. Every contribution is valuable and makes an organization’s work and impact possible. Donate the cost of a cup of coffee. Just donate. Your contribution matters.

Getting involved in a philanthropic organization that supports the needs of those in our community creates a butterfly effect that can be subtle and profound. Participating in charitable giving at the community level connects us to the village in which we live and work.

How do AlphaSights’ advisor donations benefit Access Institute?

If AlphaSights’ advisor donations totaled $50,000, it would fund services at one of our elementary schools for a year! AlphaSights can make an incredible impact on the lives of children with acute needs. Funds for our In-School Mental Health Program enable us to provide individual play therapy for children; personalized family consultation, education, and support; teacher and staff consultation; consultation and facilitation of school-based team meetings; and training and coaching for teachers and staff.

How can we as employees help?

Since we provide clinical services, we don’t have the same hands-on volunteer opportunities as other organizations. That’s why individual donations make a tremendous impact on our organization and our ability to provide comprehensive mental health treatment. Access Institute’s operating budget comes from private donations that allow us to provide vital services to patients without the limitations attached to government funding. We serve our community and are supported by our community. Every donation makes a difference.

Access Institute logo, AlphaSights charity partner

Get to know our interviewers! Eve Thomson is a manager for our corporate accounts and is actively involved in Charity House, AlphaSights’ internal philanthropy group. 

How/why did you get involved with Charity House?

In 2018, I mentioned to my manager how much I missed being involved in philanthropy — throughout college, it was important to me and something I prioritized. He connected with Charity House to see if I could get involved, and ever since, I’ve supported our Charity House in whatever capacity possible, most recently serving as an Executive Board Member for the Girls Inc. partnership. Similar to Google’s ‘20% time’ policy, working with Charity House has helped me think more holistically about AlphaSights outside of my day-to-day role, and enabled me to meet a lot of really wonderful people both inside and outside of AlphaSights!

How are AlphaSights’ charity partners selected each quarter?

Every year, Charity House supports four Charity Partners, two of which (iMentor and Girls Inc.) are legacy partners that we’ve had the pleasure of partnering with for several years, and the third is located in San Francisco, supporting the greater Bay Area Community.

Employees have the opportunity to vote on our fourth partner. To submit a new partner, we ask for philanthropies that AlphaSights employees are currently involved in and will continue to work with. We also ask that the charities aligned with Charity House’s mission:

“Charity House is a gateway for AlphaSights to celebrate and strengthen the larger community through philanthropy and meaningful connection. With the belief that knowledge fuels progress, we are committed to breaking down barriers and giving organizations access to the support they need to reach their ambitions.”

How does AlphaSights impact its charity partners?

Our financial contributions directly impact the day-to-day of the charity partner’s mission — as Azita said, an AlphaSights donation that totals $50,000 would fund services at one of Access’ elementary schools for a year! 

Additionally, AlphaSights seeks partnerships with organizations that we can support through volunteerism and host at least one in-office and one out-of-office event per quarter!

Natalie Rasmus was a manager for our consulting accounts and selected this quarter’s charity partner in SF, Access Institute.

How did you come across Access Institute? What drew you to the organization initially?

I first discovered Access Institute during a presentation at a charity that I’m part of, 100+ women who care. Access Institute was a presenting sponsor and I was so moved by the stories they told of young kids they helped with high scores on the ACES test and I thought they’d be a great partner for AlphaSights advisor donations since donations have such a direct impact on children across San Francisco.

What was it like to pitch a charity to the Charity House?

A bit nerve-racking! Access Institute was up against some great charities that all deserve more donations but I knew that if I was able to communicate the direct impact that the donations would have on children daily and I’m so glad we were.