Nonprofit Knowledge Matters | Help Your Nonprofit Take the Leap (of Reason)

February 9, 2012

Measuring the change you want to see in the world

What’s your impact”? How many times have you heard that question or wondered how to answer it? If figuring out how to measure your nonprofit’s outcomes leaves you scratching your head, then we recommend, Leap of Reason, a free book by Mario Morino that is gaining recognition among nonprofits. Written by Mario Morino, co-founder of Venture Philanthropy Partners and Chairman of the Morino Institute, Leap of Reason has given wings to Morino’s thesis that the nonprofit sector’s relationship with measuring outcomes needs “a major reset.” He also makes a strong case that nonprofits must adopt performance-based cultures in order to survive the current “era of brutal austerity.” In other words, measuring outcomes is not just about building capacity; it’s about basic survival.    

Why should Leap of Reason be on your reading list?

Based on Morino’s decades of experience in the corporate world and the world of “venture philanthropy,” Leap of Reason is filled with “ah ha” moments of insight plus plenty of ideas for concrete action. The beauty of Leap of Reason is its clarity. Knowing what to measure is complicated, but Morino and the book’s contributing authors leave no doubt about why we should. Refreshingly, Morino urges nonprofits to embrace managing to outcomes, “not because it’s a trend or a good marketing tool, and not because a funder or investor” told us to. He urges nonprofits to recognize that measuring outcomes is the only sustainable pathway to greater impact. Focusing on outcomes is “not about pushing nonprofits to drink the metrics Kool-Aid, implement fancy reporting technologies or adopt complex measurement methodologies. It is about encouraging nonprofits and funders to cultivate for themselves an outcomes focused mindset and the passion to be as effective as we possibly can for those we serve.”    

What’s different about this book?

With many thousands of hard  copies circulating, and many more constantly being downloaded for free, the 150-page self-published book is not your typical nonprofit guidebook. Replete with URLs for suggested websites, a rich reading list, “take homes in tweets,” and guest-authored essays that offer vignettes describing the experiences of real nonprofits, the book has hit a home run in the nonprofit community. Morino says that the book is intended to “begin the conversation, stimulate more thought, and provoke rich debate.” photo of leap of reasonOur own dog-eared copy shown here has numerous markers where the text offers suggestions that are powerful yet simple enough to be actually accomplished. With its easy-to-read format, a compendium of resources, and real-life examples, the book is so chock-filled with practical pointers that it converts the most skeptical of readers to make “the leap” to outcomes measurement.  

At times you can almost hear a chorus of nonprofits cheering in the background as Morino urges funders to rethink their allergies to funding overhead and reexamine expectations (or requirements) for grantees surrounding evaluation. Leap of Reason calls on funders to support nonprofits so they can manage smarter with solid information about performance and outcomes — rather than forcing them to meet myriad evaluation and reporting requirements that do little to help the organization build its capacity.  

How can Leap of Reason help your nonprofit?

If you would welcome inspiration to motivate your nonprofit to measure its outcomes, Leap of Reason offers it. A chapter in Leap of Reason appropriately called, “Ideas into Action” can jump-start your nonprofit’s journey with its inspiringly simple provocations: “Do all members of your organization know in reasonably clear terms what you expect of them?” "Does your board accept responsibility for overseeing the organization’s quality and ensure that what you do benefits those you serve in material, measurable, and sustainable ways?” Also of note is a recently released board package (it’s free, too!) designed to help nonprofit boards “take the leap” to firmer ground. Board leadership in this area matters, and Morino recognizes that organizations that manage their outcomes successfully do so because they have “courageous leaders who foster a performance culture.” The user guide for boards offers a step-by-step process, templates, and other tools to help board members (and the staff that supports their work) understand the important role board members play in making a commitment to measuring outcomes.    

Leap of Reason offers many nuggets of wisdom that you will notice @buildnpcapacity tweeting from time to time. If you have read Leap of Reason, then you’ll understand why we’re so excited about it. Please share this newsletter to encourage your peers to read it, too.  

More resources:



Get your free copy of Leap of Reason  

Mario Morino and the story behind Leap of Reason    

“You must be the change you want to see in the world.” Mahatma Gandhi  

Watch an inspiring video about being the change you want to see in the world.  

Poll: Yes or No
Does your nonprofit’s website include a clear description of intended outcomes, an explanation of how you measure progress, and the estimated cost to achieve results?  

To what end?...Most put the cart before the horse – focusing on how to measure, rather than on why and what to measure.” - Morino    

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