Thursday, November 12, 2015
Communities in Schools: Putting Quality Considerations First (Wallace Foundation, EMCF)
When a federated network decides to prioritize quality over scale, it’s not hard to foresee that toes will get stepped on and feelings will get hurt. When the dust has settled, you know that some affiliates will drop out of the network entirely, leaving fewer recipients able to get the services they so desperately need.
That’s an agonizing choice for any nonprofit, because we genuinely want to change the world, and that’s a big job that requires big numbers. Isn’t cutting back antithetical to the core mission? Why would any board or any funder support a strategy of doing less?
At Communities In Schools, we struggled with those questions as we went through a decade-long effort to emphasize quality over scale. As an organization that prevents dropouts and promotes graduation, we were always focused on results, but throughout the 1990s, size had become a proxy for effectiveness. Growth seemed to be a sign that we were doing something right; it said that the marketplace was validating our approach and asking us to do more. . .
Knowing that the same often holds true in the foundation world, we were incredibly grateful when the Robertson Foundation recognized the value of our efforts and put up the first $10 million to help drive quality throughout the network.
That vote of confidence helped to attract an unprecedented wave of investment from The Edna McConnell Clark Foundation, the Wallace Foundation, The Social Innovation Fund, The AT&T Foundation, and significant investments by the CIS National Board of Directors, among others. In a sector that often seems addicted to innovation, we were fortunate to find so many investors willing to take on the hard, unsexy work of improving implementation at a significant scale. . .