The Life of PI


In the last edition of this newsletter, we announced the launch of “The Performance Imperative: A Framework for Social-Sector Excellence” (PI), the first small step in a long-term campaign to convince nonprofits and funders alike that mission and performance are inextricably linked. We’re delighted to report that the PI seems to be resonating with a broad cross-section of nonprofit leaders. They’re putting it to use in exactly the ways the Leap Ambassadors hoped when they invested their most valuable resource—scarce discretionary time—in developing it.

For example, Martha’s Table CEO Patty Stonesifer, the former CEO of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, generously touted the PI in her keynote address last week to the Grants Managers Network and has been customizing it with her leadership team to help guide the organization’s journey to greater impact.

Rabbi Will Berkovitz, the CEO of Jewish Family Service of Seattle, told us the PI “could not articulate my aspirations any more clearly…. It’s as if you dug into my 3 am brain. This is tremendously relevant” to our strategic planning.

Julie Russell, the head of planning and evaluation at the United Way of Greater St. Louis, said that the PI “will be required reading for my evaluation course at Washington University as well as shared with our grantees, volunteers, partners, and other United Ways throughout the country.”

Chip Edelsberg, executive director of the Jim Joseph Foundation, used the PI to spark introspection about how the foundation can do even more to support high performance internally, among its grantees, and among other funders. “I believe that the field of Jewish education has much to gain by vigorously and transparently pursuing high performance,” he wrote.

Adam Luecking, CEO of the Results Leadership Group, drafted a white paper to show how a management methodology known as Results-Based Accountability can be used to build the seven competencies outlined in the PI.

During the course of a GuideStar webinar on the PI last week, Congreso de Latinos Unidos CEO Cynthia Figueroa and the Hewlett Foundation’s Fay Twersky explained how nonprofits can use the PI approach to define for themselves the results they aspire to achieve (rather than letting themselves get buffeted by idiosyncratic funder demands) and set themselves apart from their peers in an increasingly competitive funding environment. (If you missed this webinar, please join the all-star cast of Michael Bailin, Molly Baldwin, Paul Carttar, David Hunter, and Mary K. Winkler on April 16 for their PerformWell webinar on the PI.)

If you’ve downloaded the PI and started to put it to use, please spread the word via social media or shoot us a note about your efforts. We’re documenting all these examples and will use them to help inform how we can best encourage organizations to put themselves on the path of high performance.


And here are some brief updates from around the Leap of Reason community:

  • For a case study in courageous and adaptive leadership—the PI’s preeminent pillar— please check out the Case Foundation’s new “Be Fearless Guide.” It includes a meaty section on brave leadership decisions by our dear friend Billy Shore and his team at Share Our Strength. Here’s a brief excerpt: “Share Our Strength made a big bet that reinvigorated the organization and propelled the growth necessary for real impact. Since launching the NKH [No Kid Hungry] campaign, the organization’s budget has grown dramatically from $16M in 2007 to more than $40M today, which it has strategically re-invested in order to have incredible, tangible impact on childhood hunger. Since the launch of the NKH Campaign, more than one million children have been connected with additional meals.”
  • In testimony before the U.S. House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Human Resources last week, former White House Domestic Policy Advisor John Bridgeland made a powerful case for bringing “Moneyball” principles to federal spending decisions: “Given … the progress that we are seeing in areas where clear goals are set, plans of action are developed, and evidence-based reforms are marshaled, the time could not be better to put evidence at the center of policy making.” He offered six proposals for doing so, including setting aside one percent of program funds for evaluation and encouraging the use of low-cost tools to determine impact.
  • It’s great to see talented individuals illuminating the link between talent development and high performance. For example, the Talent Philanthropy Project is working to encourage “foundations to make investments in grantee organizations so that these nonprofits can, in turn, offer improved personnel policies, professional development, leadership development, and career development to their staff and volunteers.” As Founder and CEO Rusty Stahl told us, “High performance, impact, and sustainability can all be traced directly back to talent (staff, executives, board leadership, volunteers, consultants, interns—the whole team).” The inimitable Beth Kanter brought to our attention a related book (to which Rusty contributed): The Talent Development Platform: Putting People First in Social Change Organizations, by Heather Carpenter and Tera Wozniak Qualls. At a minimum, please consider visiting the book’s companion website, which contains free worksheets that can help you clarify talent-development needs, goals, and tangible benefits.
  • Based on strong recommendations from colleagues, we are eagerly awaiting Amazon shipments of our copies of The Social Profit Handbook: The Essential Guide to Setting Goals, Assessing Outcomes, and Achieving Success for Mission-Driven Organizations, by David Grant, the former president and CEO of the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation. Grant says that he wrote the book to encourage nonprofits to “innovate in pursuit of mission” by clearly defining their hypotheses about what might work, testing those hypotheses, and then assessing what they learned. Our friend and colleague Nadya Shmavonian said, “I have spent my career attempting to improve the performance of foundations and nonprofits, and I genuinely see this resource as a breath of fresh air in the pursuit of effective implementation of strategy.”
  • Once again, we’re going to point to the “Fixes” blog for a story that illustrates the ways we can improve outcomes by focusing on rigorous evidence. In “For Better Crime Prevention, a Dose of Science,” reporter Tina Rosenberg profiles Chicago’s Crime Lab and its use of rigorous experimental trials to identify the best approaches for reducing violent crimes. “No issue is more governed by prejudice, fear and political exploitation,” she wrote. “We need to know what works. And we need to be able to prove it with gold-standard evidence.”


Events/Webinars for Raising Performance:


Good luck on your journey,
Mario and Lowell