National Membership Organization Helps to Expand Results Count
Independent Sector, a membership organization that collectively represents tens of thousands of charitable groups across the country, recently has pursued the ambitious goal of ensuring that all people in the United States thrive, with a targeted focus on communities of color. Results Count®, the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s unique approach to leadership development, has been helping the organization and its diverse membership align their work in pursuit of that goal.
A Results Count hub, Independent Sector is led by president and CEO Dan Cardinali, a member of the 2007-08 class of the Children and Family Fellowship®, Casey’s signature program to develop strong, results-driven leaders. “Results Count is part of our management structure,” says Cardinali. “It provides a clear goal for our organizational strategies and a mechanism for training staff to routinely integrate equity into the implementation of those strategies.”
Engaging the alumni of Independent Sector’s multiple fellowship programs is a key strategy in working to embed an equitable results frame in the nonprofit sector. “The Results Count work is the scaffolding around which we build the fellowships,” says Cardinali. “It is a way of integrating its tools and methodology into capacity-building for the sector’s future leadership.”
A Vehicle for Change
Fundamental to Independent Sector’s work is building connections, sharing knowledge and nurturing leadership among the diverse nonprofits, foundations and corporate-giving programs that constitute its membership. To accelerate this work, Independent Sector employs Results Count’s five core competencies and two foundational frameworks, including data-driven analysis and “small tests of change.”
For example, a variety of surveys provide the data to better understand how effectively Independent Sector is reaching particular groups, including community activists, public policy audiences and academics. “We look at disaggregated data to see if there are demographic differences in the way folks are perceiving and experiencing our work,” says Kristina Gawrgy, Independent Sector’s chief communications and community-building officer. “Based on those data, we use the Plan-Do-Study-Act method to adjust our strategies.”
As a convening organization, Independent Sector and its staff have benefited from training in Results-Based Facilitation™. “With its sophisticated understanding of group dynamics and the coaching about how to both play your clear role and let others play their roles in a supportive way, Results Based Facilitation has become a very important vehicle for us, not only for our own work but also for working with our partners toward a shared result,” says Cardinali.
Engaging Fellowship Alumni
Results Count methodologies, tools and skills are central to Independent Sector’s fellowship programs for leaders in the nonprofit community. Among the ideas explored by fellows are the Person-Role-System concept and B/ART — which stands for Boundaries of Authority, Role and Task — both of which help leaders define their own contributions to the larger goal of advancing equitable outcomes for a thriving nation.
Independent Sector recently launched the Bridging Fellows program, which seeks to strengthen the individual and collective leadership capacity of local change-makers in Pittsburgh, Chicago and Dallas. While working to build healthy, equitable communities, the fellows learn and share Results Count skills, including those that help them engage in challenging conversations and bridge racial, socioeconomic and ideological divisions.
Alumni of Independent Sector’s Upswell Fellows, Walmart Fellows, NGen Fellows and Bridging Fellows constitute a powerful network of nonprofit leaders committed to the goal of ensuring that all people in the United States thrive. Some 400 alumni, more than half of whom are people of color, are engaged in various networking activities, as well as “tune-ups” in results-based leadership. Independent Sector’s monthly surveys of alumni provide the data for measuring their sense of community and adjusting its program offerings, as needed.
“The alumni strategy is a strategy for increasing the number of leaders who use Results Count as a core competency,” says Habib Bako, Independent Sector’s senior director for community engagement. “There is the huge potential of hundreds of leaders who are really well versed in Results Count thinking and who are transforming their own programming and convenings.”
A Game-Changing Difference
Cardinali has announced that 2022 will be his last year as president and CEO of Independent Sector. Results Count, however, will remain deeply embedded in all levels of the organization, including its board. Board Chair Fred Blackwell, CEO of the San Francisco Foundation, a Results Count hub, was a member of the 2007–2008 class of the Children and Family Fellowship. Board secretary and executive committee member Michael McAfee, president and CEO of PolicyLink, another Results Count hub, was a member of the 2010–2011 Children and Family Fellowship class.
“Results Count at Independent Sector is held at the strategic level,” says Cardinali. “And that has made a game-changing difference.”