The Performance Imperative: A Framework for Social Sector Excellence | Beth’s Blog

The Performance Imperative: A Framework for Social Sector Excellence


The Performance Imperative:  A Framework for Social Sector Excellence, the result of a  full year of collaborative work by the Leap of Reason Ambassadors Community, a group of nonprofit leaders coalesced and coordinated by the Leap of Reason team (, makes it debut today.  The framework details the seven organizational competencies that can help nonprofits achieve high performance and deliver greater social impact – the holy grail of the social sector.    The competencies are:

1: Courageous, Adaptive executive and board leadership
2: Disciplined, people focused management
3: Well-designed and well-implemented programs and strategies
4: Financial health and sustainability
5: A culture that values learning
6: Internal monitoring for continuous improvement
7: External evaluation for mission effectiveness

Why should we care about this?   High performance matters more than ever — we can no longer on operate passion and magical thinking.  Nonprofits that can lead and develop programs based on an analysis of the problem or need, grounded in useful data that shows impact, and a commitment to getting better over time will move faster together towards solving today’s complex problems.

The Performance Imperative framework uses organizations as the unit of analysis,  rather than communities, fields, networks, or ecosystems because they believe that high-performance collaborations require high-performance organizations at their core.  And a framework that emphasizes adaptive leadership versus heroic leadership will help move collaborations further.

And if one looks at the pillars, adaptive leadership is about embracing systems thinking and network leadership skills — being able to lead the organization in a collective approach to problem solving.     The criteria listed under #5 – A culture that values learning also describes some of the qualities of a networked mindset and contributes to healthy collaborative efforts.

-Senior management leads by example and encourages people throughout the organization to be curious, ask questions, and push each other’s thinking by appropriately and respectfully challenging.  High performance cultures are innovative cultures, mindful that every program and process eventually becomes data, even obsolete.
-Senior management creates the conditions for staff members to feel safe acknowledging when there are problems.   They use what others might deem “failures” as an opportunity for learning.
-Even the busiest of leaders, managers, and staff members carve out some time to step back, take stock, and reflect.

You can download the full report here. Learn more at this FREE Guidestar hosted webinar on March 19th

Does your nonprofit exhibit these competencies?


2 Responses

  1. Andrea John-Smith says:

    This is outstanding Beth. Thanks for sharing this framework.

  2. Nice framework and I hope you can also direct to tools that can help establish or grade some of these dimensions. Noor