“I Found My Tribe”


Lowell, a former speechwriter, has spent a lot of time thinking about the best ways to prepare for successful presentations. For the record, he does not suggest any of the following: sleeping just a few hours the night before, skipping meals, or making radical changes to your PowerPoint slides until ten minutes before you’re due at the podium.

He is now revising his thinking after watching Mario deliver his closing keynote at the After the Leap conference, in Washington, DC. Yes, Mario committed all of the sins in the paragraph above—and yet put a great coda on the powerful two-day conference with a barnburner of a speech.

Mario was not alone. Nancy Roob, Dan Cardinali, John Bridgeland, Melody Barnes, and an impressive lineup of panelists and moderators all lit up the over-capacity conference.

But lots of conferences have good speakers. What really made this one a success in our eyes was the feeling of connection and community that emerged in the ballroom, breakouts, hallways, reception hall, and breakfast and lunch tables.

“I have found my tribe,” tweeted Sheri Chaney Jones of Columbus, OH. “#ATLdc13 has really been phenomenal. Can we do it again next year, please?” tweeted Nell Edgington of Austin, TX. (Her subsequent blog post, “Starting a Movement Toward Higher Performing Nonprofits,” is a great recap of the conference for those who missed it.)

Until we get back the results of the participant survey, we won’t know if these sentiments are representative. But in our team’s post-mortem, we started collecting a host of anecdotes about the ways the conference was already fostering new connections and triggering actions among participants. For example, Ellen Bass of the Black Ministerial Alliance of Greater Boston told us she’s now working with a group of capacity builders to define a common framework for consultants to use in helping nonprofits become outcomes-driven. We heard from two experts developing performance management courses and a group that plans to work together to build academic curricula on building high-performance organizations. And we saw Tris Lumley of London ask his fellow participants, “Who wants to work together on a shared plan to get funders to invest in the field of evidence-building?”

Whether you attended or not, everyone is welcome to view videos of the keynotes and plenaries as well as slides from plenaries and breakouts. The slides are available already. Several of the videos are up and the others will be posted shortly.

We owe huge thanks to the PerformWell partners who made this conference happen—and most of all, to Steve Butz and Adrian Bordone, who probably got about a single night’s quota of sleep between them over the entire week of the conference.

Enough about After the Leap. Here are updates from around the Leap of Reason community:

  • National Council of Nonprofits CEO Tim Delaney, Vice President Jennifer Chandler, and their colleagues put out a concise guide to key trends for the coming year which ought to be required reading for every nonprofit board. The report highlighted “Transparency About Outcomes” as one of these trends: “Because of the intense competition for financial resources, and donors’ desire to know where their contributed dollars are going, it continues to be important for charitable nonprofits to be transparent about not only their finances, but also their outcomes.”

  • Center for Effective Philanthropy (CEP) President Phil Buchanan, who lent his intellect and self-deprecating humor to the “Do Funders Get It?” panel discussion at After the Leap, used his blog to shine light on the disconnect between what funders say they want to see from their grantees and what they’re willing to support. “If foundations want to see nonprofits achieve higher standards of evidence of effectiveness and be better at data collection and analysis that fuels improvement—and our research suggests they do—then they need to support nonprofits in doing that work.”
  • Thanks to the talented Bridgespan team, Mario was given an opportunity to contribute thoughts to the “Giving That Gets Results” series on the Stanford Social Innovation Review’s website. In his interview, he implores funders to support executive management development and reward nonprofit leaders for making outcomes-based decisions.
  • We recommend Jessica Benko’s Wired article “Reality Check: The Hyper-Efficient, Highly Scientific Scheme to Help the World’s Poor,” about the unassuming but brilliant Harvard economist Michael Kremer and the “randomista movement” that is bringing more discipline to the field of international development. “In the realm of human behavior, just as in the realm of medicine, there’s no better way to gain insight than to compare the effect of an intervention to the effect of doing nothing at all,” writes Benko. “That means you need to climb down from the ivory tower and do some serious legwork in the places you’re trying to help.”
  • The “Moneyball for Government” meme is spreading. Check out this blog post by Barbara Poppe, executive director of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness. Poppe, who describes herself as an “activist at heart with a head for data,” writes with nuance and candor about her efforts to track progress in helping those who have no home. She acknowledges that one well-intentioned effort to help homeless veterans produced the opposite of the intended results. “The expectation was that by making the process easier … more Veterans experiencing chronic homelessness would be served. Unfortunately, the opposite seemed to occur…. The pressure to meet the key metrics drove providers to reach the easiest to serve not the hardest to serve.”
  • Mazel tov to David Hunter for breaking the 6,500-download threshold for his Working Hard—and Working Well. (For context: only about 2% of the books published every year sell more than 5,000 copies.)
  • We just read The Holy Grail of Public Leadership, by Adam Luecking, the CEO of Results Leadership Group. The book is a narrative accompaniment to the organization’s Results Scorecard 3.0 performance management system. We particularly liked the book’s clear definitions (e.g., “Measurable Impact is the difference between promoting awareness about HIV/AIDS and lowering infection rates by 30 percent across the most vulnerable segment of the population”) and the performance case studies in Appendix A.

Events for Raising Performance: 

Happy holidays to one and all,

Mario and Lowell

Mario Morino is Chairman of the Morino Institute, Co-Founder and Founding Chair of Venture Philanthropy Partners, and author of the lead essay in Leap of Reason. Lowell Weiss is president of Cascade Philanthropy Advisors, co-editor of Leap of Reason, and advisor to the Leap of Reason initiative.

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