Leaping Forward this Fall


As families like ours buy school supplies, find out class assignments, and transition back to the barely controlled chaos of the academic year, we are also gearing up for a busy fall of sharing the Leap of Reason message with public and private sector leaders around the country.

Our efforts to spread the Leap gospel got a generous boost this month from theAlliance for Nonprofit Management. The Alliance announced on August 10 that Leap of Reason was selected as the runner up for its prestigious Terry McAdam Book Award, which goes to “the most inspirational and useful new book published for the nonprofit sector.” (The top-prize winner was Giving Back, by Valaida Fullwood and Charles W. Thomas, Jr.) Immediately after we were notified, I reached out to all of theLeap contributors to share the news and thank them for elevating the book from a slim monograph to the substantive, practical, thoroughly vetted book that it became!

And now for a series of quick-hitters from around the Leap of Reason community:

  • Huge kudos to Molly Baldwin, Anisha Chablani, and their colleagues at Roca on their new Performance Benchmark and Outcomes Report. The report is a must-read for anyone who still believes that commitment to a mission focus is somehow incompatible with measuring impact!
  • Gerald Chertavian, the relentless, high-performance leader of Year Up (which VPP is proud to support through its youthCONNECT initiative), has just published the book A Year Up, which is loaded with powerful stories of young people trying to scale the ladder of opportunity despite its many broken rungs. Fittingly, the book is now climbing the New York Times bestseller list. All proceeds go to supporting Year Up’s programs for young people facing tough barriers to employment.
  • Both Roca and Year Up were featured two weeks ago in the Boston Globe article “Calculating Success: Charities adopt for-profit model of analyzing data.” Reflecting on Roca’s beginnings, Molly Baldwin commented, “It was all guesswork. I hope we did more good than bad. But we weren’t really sure ever. Now we’re able to see if we’re being helpful or not.”
  • Congratulations to Elizabeth Boris and her colleagues at Urban Institute, Child Trends, and Social Solutions on the first in their series of PerformWell webinarsintroducing the fundamentals of performance management. The webinar, on August 14, attracted nearly 900 participants. The next PerformWell webinar, “Creating a Performance Culture,” is scheduled for October 11. The impressive demand for these webinars is a sign that an increasing number of nonprofit leaders are seeing performance management as an urgent need—and not a luxury—for navigating in this era of scarcity. Sadly, I’m seeing funders lag behind their grantees in coming to this realization.
  • Nonprofit board members interested in fostering high-performance cultures should give serious consideration to attending the next iteration of Harvard Business School’s Governing for Nonprofit Excellence (GNE) Executive Education program. The intensive program will be offered on the HBS campus October 28-31, 2012. To understand whether the program is relevant for you, take a look at thevideo testimonials from previous attendees.
  • Thank you to Brad Bryant, the executive director of the Georgia Foundation for Public Education, for highlighting the way he and his team are using Leap of Reason to fuel the collective impact of Atlanta’s Ready by 21 Leadership Council: “I expected to be enlightened; I didn’t expect to [find] a book that so reinforced our work that it became almost required reading for our Ready by 21 team in Atlanta.” (And thank you to Karen Pittman, the president and CEO of the Forum for Youth Investment, for encouraging Bryant to share his reflections in the Ready by 21 newsletter.)
  • What would a Leap of Reason Update be without a reference to Bridgespan’s outstanding, field-building work on performance management and leadership development? Bridgespan’s Kirk Kramer and Preeta Nayak have just released Plan A: How Successful Nonprofits Develop Their Future Leaders, which explores a set of linked steps nonprofits can take to build leadership development processes in their organizations. Bridgespan has also released an online diagnostic tool to use as a first step in understanding an organization’s relative strengths and weaknesses in leadership development. As valuable as these Bridgespan resources are, I feel compelled to share some additional perspective that I hope the Bridgespan team will incorporate in future iterations: It’s hard for me to imagine a better path for developing great leaders within an organization than putting those people in positions that move them out of their comfort zone and into situations that require growth; set a clear expectation for what is to be achieved; and ensure there are people (ideally their managers) with the explicit purpose of supporting and stretching their growth.

Thanks, as always, for your commitment to raising your performance for those you serve. Here’s hoping you and your teams make a big leap forward this fall.

My best,