"What Does the Data Say?" 

As I’ve written before, leadership has always been an important quality we seek out in youth-serving organizations that we invest in. In our due diligence, we assess the track record of a prospect’s leadership and the organization’s vision for growth, along with factors like program quality and evidence of effectiveness. Over the years, I have been awed and humbled by our grantees’ leadership teams  and their resilience as they navigate opportunities and threats, all the while learning from their mistakes, building on their successes and pushing their organizations ahead.

For example, this summer our first cohort of PropelNext grantees completed the three-year program, and each organization is now collecting, analyzing and applying data to improve its programs and operations so it can serve disadvantaged youth even more effectively. These nonprofits have made tremendous strides toward what we call “gaining the mastery to turn their program visions into reality” with well-crafted theories of change, robust performance-management systems, and organizational cultures that are grounded in learning.

I believe the leaders of these organizations, each in his or her own way, embody what my colleague Mario Morino has called a “performance mindset.” They are leaders driven to achieve the most for the youth they serve, which requires helping their teams maximize performance. Last year, Mario and the Leap of Reason Ambassadors Community produced a unique resource called the Performance Imperative to inspire great organizations to achieve greater social impact. It offers a framework focused on seven crucial organizational disciplines that are strongly correlated with high performance. EMCF’s grantmaking approach is closely aligned with the tenets and philosophy behind the framework, and I encourage those interested in this topic to explore this evolving resource.

In this vein, I’m excited to announce we have partnered with Leap of Reason to capture and share real-world lessons, as recounted by PropelNext grantee CEOs, about how to lead organizations to greater impact and higher performance. We hope these videos, featuring Tess Reynolds (New Door Ventures), Nick Ehrmann (Blue Engine) and Mike Duggan (Domus Kids), will offer inspiration and insight to those who share their passion for young people and want to translate this into ways they can achieve even more for disadvantaged youth. These videos are the first in a series that we plan to release over the next year, and we invite you to share them with colleagues and friends. 

To view the videos, please visit our YouTube channel 

While PropelNext’s first cohort has ended, our new California cohort kicked off its three-year program last week in Santa Cruz. We’re excited to be joined by our four California Partners – the Hewlett, Packard, Sobrato and Weingart foundations – in working with 15 new organizations to help them develop the capacity to generate data-driven insights and practices that will deliver even stronger results for their communities. 

In closing, I want to extend a special thank you to Mario Morino and Lowell Weiss for helping us get this partnership (a first for EMCF) off the ground. As always, I look forward to your suggestions and feedback. 

Nancy Roob
November 2015