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PropelNext Alumni Study: The Road to High Performance

by Edna McConnell Clark Foundation; Harder + Company Community Research; Engage R + D

Jun 1, 2018

The Edna McConnell Clark Foundation (EMCF) makes large, long-term investments to help high-performing nonprofits scale evidence-based programs that improve the lives of disadvantaged children and youth. In 2012, EMCF launched PropelNext to strengthen the next tier of organizations whose programs had not yet been fully codified. Informed by research and hands-on experience in organizational effectiveness and performance management, EMCF developed PropelNext as an intensive, cohort-based, capacity-building program designed to enhance the effectiveness of promising nonprofits serving America's disadvantaged youth. Through PropelNext, cohorts of grantees participate in a structured three-year program supported by a team of experienced consultants that helps grantees build the knowledge, infrastructure, and practices to become data-driven learning organizations. EMCF believes that supporting youth-serving organizations to use data will strengthen their programs and ultimately improve outcomes for youth.The first national cohort of 12 organizations completed the PropelNext program in 2015. To better understand the impact of PropelNext and how it contributes to improved organizational performance, EMCF partnered with Harder+Company Community Research and Engage R+D to assess post-program progress, achievements, and challenges. The 18-month study triangulates data from diverse sources including in-depth site visits, document review including data reports, surveys, interviews, and focus groups with organizational leaders, middlemanagers, front-line staff, board members, partners, and funders. This report summarizes key insights and findings and is designed to capture the journey of grantees as they continue to cultivate a learning culture and to embed performance management practices into their organizational DNA. Given the evolving nature of the capacity-building field, the study also elevates promising practices and effective ways to help nonprofits use data for continuous learning and improved performance.