In a climate of shrinking resources and growing need, nonprofits—and the funders that invest in them—are seeking ways to better deliver on their missions to deepen their impact.
Over the summer I met with the executive director and program director of a youth career development program here in Boston. We had just analyzed their program’s performance and delivered a report that detailed our in-depth analysis. Their organization was participating in a pilot Independent Program Analysis project, developed in partnership with the State Street Foundation, with a group of 11 other organizations that provide youth career development services. I wanted to learn how we could improve this report and they wanted to learn how they could improve their program. The conversation that followed highlights the desire of nonprofits to increase the impact they have on the people that they serve.
The program director had spent hours reviewing the best practices outlined in the report—many were familiar to him, but others were new. One in particular caught his eye because it was something he had been trying to do for years but hadn’t found an effective way to do. He knew that if he could get his hands on the report cards of the young people in his program, he could better monitor their academic progress and effectively guide their educational plans. His program already had a strong infrastructure to assist students who needed to improve their grades and challenge students who were excelling to raise their game further. The issue was getting the information about students’ grades early enough for his interventions to be effective.
As the meeting began he said, “I see that there is an organization that gets report cards from its students. How do they do that?” While I knew how the organization gathered report cards, based on the in-depth analysis we had done on both programs, I knew that telling him would not provide all the information he would need to be successful in implementing the best practice. What he really needed to do was talk directly to the other organization’s leadership.
I had similar conversations with the other 11 programs participating in our pilot. Each identified something that they wanted to do better, someone from whom they wanted to learn, something for which they wanted to hold their board accountable, something that made them proud, or something that they wanted to share with staff or funders.
Through these conversations and a year of testing, we developed our Independent Program Analysis Reports with this idea in mind. We believed that highlighting an organization’s strengths and areas for improvement based on a standard set of best practices was a key first step in these organizations’ quests to improve their programming and increase their impact.
This October, we launched the Peer Performance Exchange which brings together nonprofits that are committed to improving their programs through learning, linking, and leveraging. As members of the Exchange, nonprofits:
Learn about their programs’ strengths and opportunities for improvement through a comprehensive and independent analysis performed by Social Impact Research analysts
Link with like-minded organizations in an annual members-only symposium focused on peer-to-peer learning, problem solving, and networking
Leverage the findings of the analysis to improve their programs’ effectiveness through a hub of web-based resources
In March 2013 we will begin the first Peer Performance Exchange – for Youth Career Development programs. Applicants should apply for the Youth Career Development cohort by February 15, 2013. And in September 2013 we will kick off our second Exchange – for College Access and Success programs.
Click here to learn more about this opportunity and if your program is interested in learning, linking and leveraging to increase your impact, please contact me at 617.649.1536 or firstname.lastname@example.org.