Setting a bold, new vision for a 93-year-old legacy organization has been both challenging and rewarding. However, taking time to allow the infrastructure, metrics, and culture to catch up with the vision will be critical for long-term sustainability and success.
That’s why BGCSM is proud to announce a two-year partnership with Bridgespan, a global nonprofit consulting firm. Check out my interview with Bridgespan Partner, Alex Neuhoff, as we discuss the new partnership, economic mobility and how to measure impact!
Shawn H. Wilson (SW) – How did you get involved with Bridgespan?
Alex Neuhoff (AN) – I started my career in for-profit consulting with Bain & Company. I really enjoyed the work, but I felt like I needed to be doing more to make the world a better place. I was very fortunate when Bain started Bridgespan to focus on the nonprofit sector. In my 18 years with Bridgespan, my primary focus has been on children, youth, and families. Bridgespan has worked with over 500 clients including the Ford Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, to name a few.
SW – Tell us about BGCSM’s partnership with Bridgespan.
AN – We’re really excited to be working with BGCSM as part of our Leading for Impact program. Leading for Impact is a two-year intensive program designed to increase the impact of nonprofit organizations. What’s really unique about Leading for Impact is that it works with the whole executive team of the organization. It’s also includes two customizable projects where Bridgespan helps BGCSM with specific issues they’re grappling with. We know the first one of those will be to help define intended impact.
SW – So, how do you measure impact?
AN – First, is getting really clear on what your ultimate goal is. What do you want to see for the youth and families that you serve? And then you need to work backwards from there and see what the different weigh-points on that journey are that you can track. The challenge is that there are likely a lot of things you’d like to measure but can’t right now. But don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Figure out what you can measure now and get better over time. Start measuring now.
SW – BGCSM is increasing our focus on economic mobility. How do you define economic mobility and why is it important?
AN – We define economic mobility as the ability to move up in terms of your socioeconomic status. That both your income and education will be at a higher level than what your parents were. Unfortunately, today we actually see downward economic mobility in the United States as opposed to upward mobility. Bridgespan has done a lot of work related to economic mobility. It’s our core focus.
I think it’s so important because it’s such a big determinant of people’s health and happiness in the United States. In order to have a life where you have access to healthcare, good housing and good jobs, you need economic mobility. Unfortunately, in the United States we have some of the lowest economic mobility of developed countries.
SW – Why do you think BGCSM is uniquely positioned to address economic mobility?
AN – You are a place where youth want to come. You can get the youth here, engage them in things that they find exciting and interesting, and use that opportunity of having the kids here to then build their skills, interests, and motivations. Set their ambitions and their interests for the future to help them achieve better economic mobility.
SW – What do you think about our new Reimagine campaign?
AN – I think it’s wonderful! I’m not just saying that. When I heard about it, I thought it was brilliant to make the Clubs a place that are even more exciting and more relevant to kids in today’s age. And to also make it a place for their parents as well as adults in the community. Far too often people take a single-generation approach to economic mobility but the best thing a kid can have is a parent who can help them on their journey toward greater economic mobility.
SW – How difficult is it to Reimagine a 93-year-old institution.
AN – It’s not easy. It starts with a very exciting vision that makes people want to change and move toward something new. But then there’s a lot of hard work that goes into changing how the organization operates to actually get to that vision. It often involves changing your services, your programs, and the way you fund yourself. And really importantly, changing the culture of the organization.
SW – What is your moonshot for BGCSM?
AN – My moonshot is the vast majority of the youth you serve truly improve their economic mobility and that you’re able to measure it and show that it holds up over time. One, two, five years after kids leave the Club and go on to college or their career. And people will say that that’s impossible now to stay in touch with these youth, to track their progress, to measure it. But I think there’s a way.
SW – Where can people go to find out more about Bridgespan?
AN – Visit www.bridgespan.org. We’re a nonprofit so everything we learn we try to turn into reports and tools that we share freely on our website.