Building leadership is one of Irvine’s core values, and one of the ways we try to realize that value is through the Fund for Leadership Advancement. Started in 2005, the fund supports the development of individual leaders as a way to increase the impact of existing Irvine grantee organizations. Although the fund has been on hiatus while we conducted a program review, we are restarting this leadership development initiative and sharing what we’ve learned from our work in this area.
As we reached a critical mass of more than 50 FLA grants, we decided to take stock of FLA and consider updates that would insure that the program takes into account the economic and social circumstances our grantees currently face. In order to review the impact of FLA, we commissioned Harder+Company Community Research to conduct an external assessment of these grants and help us understand where and how FLA has had the greatest impact.
Overall, the assessment report confirmed for us the value and strength of the FLA model and affirmed the core beliefs that undergird FLA:
The assessment also identified ways we could increase the impact of FLA grants. Specifically, the evaluation suggests expanding the focus on leadership to include the whole “leadership system,” including senior staff and board members, an idea echoed in a briefing paper about leadership and scaling from Grantmakers for Effective Organizations. Harder+Co’s analysis also helps to reframe leadership changes as a natural part of organizational development and suggests ways that support for leadership succession can increase long-term organizational effectiveness.
We are incorporating these ideas into the program’s design. Moreover, given the very strong evaluation results, we will be offering grantees more frequent invitations to apply for FLA support, in the hopes of reaching a greater share of our grantee portfolio at those times when an FLA grant might have significant impact.
More information about these grants is available in the publication What Helps Leaders Grow: Highlights from the Fund for Leadership Advancement and the article Amid Downturn, Nonprofits Reap Benefits of Leadership Support.