Celebrating PropelNext's First Grantees

This month, PropelNext reaches a new milestone: thirteen organizations from our inaugural cohort will complete the program and graduate.

These grantees have made substantial progress toward gaining the mastery to turn their program visions into reality. All of them are now collecting, analyzing and applying data to learn how they can improve more effectively the lives of disadvantaged youth.

In 2012, we selected these organizations because they were already strong and capable, and we believed in their potential to do even more to measure their impact and boost their effectiveness.

We have been delighted by our grantees’ progress over the past three years, and we are excited by what the future holds for them and–most importantly–for the young people they serve. With the help of PropelNext, these 13 organizations have:

Successfully sharpened their programs. Our grantees revisited their theories of change, carefully strengthening them with the latest evidence and best practices in the field. As a result, some have decided to focus more intently on specific populations of youth in critical need of help. Others have chosen to expand key programs to enhance their results while winding down ineffective ones. As a result, young people are more likely to receive the highest-quality support they need to thrive.

Implemented and begun utilizing robust performance management systems. Some organizations upgraded existing systems while others replaced them and implemented new systems – and all are now collecting the most relevant and critical data, linked to their refined programs, to shed light on participant demographics, program delivery, performance, and outcomes.

Started nurturing organizational cultures that embrace learning. Beyond the technical aspects of performance management, our grantees are building organizational cultures in which all staff – from the front line to the leadership and board – value learning and are driven by data to improve their work. For example, some grantees have revised staff responsibilities to align with their enhanced program models. Others have scheduled weekly team meetings to review data, consider its implications, and adapt accordingly. Today, all are grappling regularly with tough questions and making strategic decisions based on evidence and data, even when these require substantial change.

Over the course of this initiative, we have seen many of our grantees increase the numbers of youth they serve and their revenues. Now, with their programs articulated and focused more sharply, we are witnessing them expand their impact, attract new resources and funding, and build partnerships to boost further their impact on the lives of disadvantaged youth. We believe that these advances will produce even stronger results for the young people these 13 organizations serve, and that our investment has sparked changes in how they approach their work that will long outlast the duration of our grants.

We know there is no magic wand to create better futures for disadvantaged youth, but the advances these organizations have made have shown us that smart use of data, strong leadership and a stalwart commitment to ever-improving results can lead to changes that seem truly magical. We’re confident these nonprofits will figure prominently among the next generation of leaders in our sector, and we encourage others who want to make a tangible difference in the lives of disadvantaged youth to join us by investing in these high-performing organizations.

Nancy Roob, EMCF President
Lissette Rodriguez, Managing Director of PropelNext

July 2015