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About The Performance Imperative

A Framework for Social-Sector Excellence

quote1 Use “The Performance Imperative” to guide and gauge your journey toward high performance. The journey won’t be linear. It won’t be easy. But ultimately it will be rewarding for you, your stakeholders, and the causes you’ve dedicated your life to advancing. quote1

Introduction to ‘The Performance Imperative’

Who Developed ‘The Performance Imperative’?

“The Performance Imperative” (PI) is the result of a full year of collaborative work by the Leap of Reason Ambassadors Community, a group of nonprofit leaders coalesced and coordinated by the Leap of Reason team (

Why Did We Develop the PI?

We knew that without a thoughtfully developed, thoroughly vetted definition of “high performance,” any call for raising performance in our sector would ring hollow. In addition to providing a common definition of “high performance,” the PI also lays out in detail the seven organizational pillars that can help you achieve high performance. To crib from the late author Stephen Covey, these are the seven habits of highly effective organizations.

What Differentiates the PI?
  • It’s collaborative. 60+ co-creators—practitioners, funders, and thought leaders. Not driven by one organization’s agenda.
  • It’s rigorous. Not watered-down committee product. Sets high bar for those who want to achieve results beyond what would have happened anyway.
  • It’s comprehensive. We’ve all seen materials on each of the 7 pillars. The PI brings all together in one coherent whole, greater than sum of parts.
  • It’s clear and succinct. Actionable detail but blissfully jargon-free.
What Are Key Features of the PI?
  • It defines what a high performance organization is
  • It places preeminent importance on leadership
  • It recognizes that culture and people are key to performance, continuous learning and improvement
  • It blends disciplined execution, people focus, and data-driven decision making
  • It ties external evaluation as essential to operational performance
  • It focuses on organizations overall (not just programs)
How Does the PI Fit in a Range of Approaches?

It augments other definitional resources and/or helps in implementing management methodologies


How Can the PI Be Used?
  • Nonprofit boards − assess mission effectiveness in living up to their fiduciary responsibility
  • Nonprofit executives − strategic plans, professional development efforts, and organizational review
  • Funders and public agencies − spark introspection on ways to fund and support high performance
  • Professors − augment syllabus and relevant courses
  • Consultants − advise nonprofits to plan, build, grow, learn, and improve
  • Online services − organize and feature content around the seven pillars of high performance
To What End? In Other Words, Why Should You Care About High Performance?

In this era of scarcity and seismic change, high performance matters more than ever. The social and public sectors simply don’t have money to expend on efforts that are based primarily on good intentions and wishful thinking rather than rigor and evidence. They are increasingly steering resources toward efforts that are based on a sound analysis of the problem or need, grounded assumptions about how an organization’s activities can lead to the desired change, assessments to determine whether hard work is paying off, and a desire to keep getting better over time. This formula is at the core of high performance—and it’s just as applicable to organizations that are cutting-edge innovators as it is to institutions that are tried-and-true.

Who Can Benefit From the PI?

Achieving high performance does require significant resources. Therefore, we believe the insights in this document are most applicable to organizations that have budgets of $3 million or more and are not so starved for flexible dollars they can’t fathom investing in their own infrastructure. But even if you have a smaller budget and tight financial constraints, you will still find ideas here to help you get better at getting better.

The PI focuses on the level of an individual organization rather than the level of communities, fields, or ecosystems. We put forward an organization-level framework because we believe that high-performance collaborations require high-performance organizations at their core.

Will We Update the PI?

This first public release is not a fait accompli. We will be making periodic updates to refine, adapt, and elaborate on what you see here. We want to improve our work—consistent with the PI itself—with input from leaders with different views and experiences. Indeed, we are eager for your feedback, especially as you begin to use the PI.