Fund for Leadership Advancement Print E-mail


To enhance the leadership capacities of the executive directors of selected grantee organizations.

Initiative Description

The Fund for Leadership Advancement provides flexible and tailored support to executive directors of selected grantee organizations. This support might include executive coaching, visits to peer institutions, attendance at executive seminars or organizational development consulting focused on improving organizational performance. The fund is unusual among leadership-development programs in that it goes beyond one-time training events or conferences. We encourage executive directors to identify more than one kind of support to foster an integrated approach, to enhance the leader’s ability to acquire new skills and knowledge, and to assist the leader in applying new knowledge within the organization. Additional details about the fund are available here.


Since the approach of the Fund for Leadership Advancement was new to Irvine, we chose to conduct an external evaluation of the first three groups of grantees to help us understand how the fund has helped participating executive directors enhance their own leadership and their organization’s capacity. This was a formative evaluation — in other words, it provided early feedback on design and implementation, so that we can identify promising practices, lessons and ways to refine and strengthen this initiative moving forward.


Our goals for the evaluation were to:

  • Assess the program design in terms of funding, processes and support provided by Irvine
  • Identify strategies that offer particular promise for leadership development
  • Provide a preliminary assessment of whether the fund has advanced specific organizational outcomes and changes in the skills and strengths of individual leaders

These evaluation objectives were descriptive in nature, focused on short-term outcomes at the individual and organizational levels. Though the fund’s theory of change identifies long-term outcomes as part of the fund’s theory of change, they were not included as measures for this formative evaluation.

Time frame:

2006 – 2009

Participating grantees:

Since its launch in 2005, the Foundation has awarded a total of $2.7 million in grants to 43 organizations through the Fund for Leadership Advancement. This evaluation focused on 20 leaders whose organizations received grants in 2005 and 2006. A full list of grantees is available here.


This evaluation drew on qualitative and quantitative data from the Foundation and the grantees. The evaluators reviewed program materials and grantee reports. They also contacted leaders and their colleagues directly through surveys and interviews to gain their assessment of program implementation and outcomes. Finally, the evaluators participated in meetings with the internal Fund for Leadership Advancement team and the organizational development consultant who provides technical assistance to the grantees.


Findings from this evaluation should be of interest to other funders and organizations involved in leadership development, and consultants who support nonprofit organizations and their leaders. What follows is a summary of key findings from this evaluation. A more complete analysis, as well as an overall exploration of the Fund for Leadership Advancement, are available in the publication What Helps Leaders Grow.

  • Leaders reported improvements in their professional skills, including their ability to manage organizational change, work with their boards of directors and effectively distribute responsibility so that the leader could devote time externally to raising the organization’s profile.
  • Most executive directors reported higher job satisfaction, typically due to an improved work/life balance
  • The majority of leaders and their colleagues surveyed through the evaluation reported enhanced capacity and better functioning due to the Fund for Leadership Advancement work.
  • Generally, organizations with more staff were more successful with their leadership advancement work because they could assume responsibilities from the leader.
  • A focused proposal process supported by an organizational development consultant helps leaders craft a plan to guide the work and provides an accountability mechanism for the grant.

Related materials:


Kim Ammann Howard, Ph.D.
Director of Evaluation and Organizational Learning
BTW informing change

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