Expanding the Community Thoughtfully

We take great care in identifying, vetting, and approaching leaders, like you, who are potential ambassadors to ensure there is a mutual good fit and match between you and the community.  We take these extra steps to ensure 1) you will enjoy a positive experience as an engaged member of the community and 2) the community evolves and grows with quality.

Growing the Community

Courtesy, respect, and thoughtfulness guide a systematic approach to recruiting and vetting new ambassadors.

View Community Growth presentation here.

For consideration, candidates must demonstrate:

  • Strong affinity for the community’s purpose—the belief that performance matters and that building high-performance organizations is a vital pathway to achieve meaningful, measurable, and financially sustainable results for the people and causes served.
  • Strong desire and expressed enthusiasm to be a member of the community over and above any benefits gained through affiliation.
  • Meaningful accomplishments in their lives and work that demonstrates excellence in their field and contribute to the community’s purpose..
  • Depth of knowledge and expertise of what high performance is and what it takes to build high-performance organizations, whether through experience in leadership, management, programs, financial health, organizational culture, internal monitoring, external evaluation, or other related disciplines.
  • Ability, willingness, and time to contribute to the community and advocate its “performance matters” message in their communities and networks.
  • Alignment with community norms to ensure a reasonable fit with the community’s group chemistry and protocols that allow for and encourage dissenting views, independent thinking, and objectivity—always done with respect and courtesy.
    • Ability to separate himself/herself from his/her organization
    • Ability to avoid unreasonably skewing, constraining, biasing dialogue or extreme positions
    • Comfort with constructive conflict and the willingness to respectfully call others out.

These are the heartfelt ties that bind each ambassador within the community.

Ambassador Nominations

Current ambassadors can nominate a candidate for consideration here.

Ambassador Expectations

First and foremost, ambassadors “walk the talk” by demonstrating “performance matters” in your own work and actively encouraging others to do the same—in your own words, time, and way. The cornerstone expectation is that “As an ambassador, I will participate in some way.”

As an ambassador, I commit to my fellow ambassadors that I will:

  • Serve as an ambassador of the community’s purpose in my own work, communities, and networks by:
    • Buying into the need to trigger a mindshift that mission and performance are inextricably linked
    • Inspiring, supporting, and convincing nonprofit and public-sector leaders (and their stakeholders) to accept that “performance matters”
    • Incorporating the community’s messaging—anchored in the definition of high performance and its seven disciplines—to deliver a consistent, ongoing, and unified message to the field
    • Representing the community’s purpose, products, and positions in speaking engagements, planning retreats, conferences, informal conversations, personal emails, and social media channels, when I can.
  • Be a contributor, learner, and beneficiary of the community’s online forum by:
    • Being reasonably present in the online forum—asking and responding to requests for assistance or information, contributing to conversation prompts that help build relationships and the social fabric of the community. I will contribute if and when I want and in my own way, with the expectation that my participation in the online forum contributes to the community 70-20-10 rule of participation:
      • 70% observe—you read or observe but don’t contribute
      • 20% comment—you respond, question, exchange, share, or suggest in dialogue with others in the community
      • 10% create content—you are part of the community’s collaborative-development backbone.

(It doesn’t matter in which of these online participation levels you engage; you just need to be in one of them. Episodic observation counts, but no one should be completely dormant. To date, ambassador participation has been higher than the 70-20-10 ratio, noteworthy for a community of our size.)

    • Contributing to the collective IQ of the community by sharing specific knowledge and experience in building high-performance organizations, whether in leadership, management, program, financial health, culture, performance, evaluation, etc., when I can.
    • Communicating in a way that is respectful, culturally sensitive, and in line with our equity and inclusion efforts.
  • Contribute to growing the community and the relationships on which it is built by:
    • Lending a hand to nominate ambassador candidates, invite those you know, participate with others in regional gatherings, make connections for other ambassadors and help build the social fabric of the community, when I can.
    • Sharing examples of my efforts in the field to promote the community’s messages of high performance, products, and positions to share with others
    • Responding to short queries, surveys, and requests for feedback to vet proposed candidates, review and critique new products, and gain insights on issues facing the community.
    • Keeping the community’s priority and diversity efforts in mind when I nominate. The priorities are:
      • People of color
      • Nonprofit service delivery leaders
      • Public sector leaders
      • Millennials

Ambassador Status

Active ambassador engagement drives the Leap Ambassadors Community. Yet over the course of an ambassador’s time in the community, there may be ebbs and flows in engagement. In recognition of this reality, an ambassador may cycle in and out of full participation by moving to “affiliate,” “inactive,” or “alum” status. These options allow an ambassador to continue with the community even when changes in work and life circumstances occur. These choices aren’t available when new ambassadors initially join, but offered, if needed, once they’re active in the community.

  • Active – ambassador is onboard and engaged in the community.
  • Affiliate – ambassador with limited time for engagement helps advance community’s work through their advice, influence, and connections; stays abreast via regular email communication and ambassador get-togethers; does not participate in the community’s online forum. *
  • Inactive – ambassador who needs to temporarily step out of the community becomes temporarily “inactive” (e.g., sabbaticals, job changes, medical issues). *
  • Alum – ambassador “in good standing in spirit and deed” who after reaching certain milestones (e.g., retirement, personal circumstance, or a fundamental career change) chooses to withdraw from the community, but values a continued connection. Alums are welcome to join when ambassadors come together in-person. *

 * Shown in list of ambassadors with status of affiliate, inactive, or alum noted

 What Being in the Community Looks Like

There’s no one-size-fits-all for an ambassador’s experiences in the community. The most important contribution to the community is “walking the talk” in your daily work. The “what” and “how” of your involvement are functions of the alignment of your work with the community’s purpose; your willingness and desire to advocate and convince others that “performance matters;” the way you communicate and share with others; and the communities and networks in which you are involved. It’s important that you find enough value to make it worth your time to participate and contribute. Like most things, value comes from giving and receiving.

So what community communications can you expect?

  • From the Leap Ambassadors support team via direct email: Approximately seven to ten emails a month (average one or two a week), including announcements, updates, previews, feedback and candidate vetting requests, and other messaging. Try to read when your time allows. If you’re too busy, put them in a folder to read later or just hit delete!
  • From the community’s online forum: Emails from other ambassadors, that occur on an “ebb-and-flow” timeline based on the original post and responses.
    • On average each month, one prompt from the team and two or three information posts or updates from other ambassadors that, in turn, cause an average of 20 messages for each thread (e.g., a discussion or exchange).
  • If a discussion breaks out in the online forum and it piques your interest, follow the message thread more closely and consider contributing. If it’s a topic that’s not of interest or you don’t have the time, delete the posts.
  • From time to time, post your own request for assistance or share advice with the community. Here are some recent examples: an ambassador was interested in knowing if anyone had worked on a social impact bond initiative and another asked if anyone knew a particular nonprofit.

How can you connect with others in the community?

  • Connect with any of the Leap support team members and reach out for advice, a connection to another ambassador, a sounding board for a post to the community, or help with resources on the website.
  • If you’re attending a conference, reach out to find if other ambassadors are attending and arrange to meet.
  • Attend (or even help host) an informal regional get-together with other ambassadors, if your schedule permits. To date, there have been gatherings in NYC, the Boston area, Cleveland, San Francisco, Seattle, and Philadelphia.

What are some specific actions you can take?

  • Several times a month, spread the word about the community’s efforts, products, or events to help convince others that performance matters. Consider sharing via social media channels; emails to colleagues; and in-person or virtual communications with those in your organization, communities, and networks. You can greatly amplify the community’s voice without infringing on much of your time.
  • When the opportunity affords itself, print or ask the Leap team to send you copies of community materials (e.g., the Performance Imperative or the “Small, But Mighty” kickstarter) to use in meetings, informal get-togethers, conferences, or other gatherings.
  • If you give a speech or presentation or participate in a panel or webinar, borrow freely from the PowerPoint materials available on the website.
  • If you teach a class at a college or university or other educational venues, remember you can provide print copies of the Leap of Reason book, the Performance Imperative, and other community products as student references and reading assignments. Students like that the resources are complimentary.

Use the first three to six months after coming on board to get oriented. For starters:

  • Take time to get familiar with what the community can provide and how you might best engage.
    • Browse the Leap Ambassadors Community website to get a feel for what’s available.
    • Browse previous community updates and insights to gain background and context.
    • Find where materials are available for download or get the links to share with others.
    • Reach out to other ambassadors or check in with the Leap team if you’d like introductions or connections.
  • Connect with someone on the Leap support team. Liz Walters and Linda Johanek have responsibility for ambassador onboarding and engagement, and community manager Veronica Dubravetz is available to help you and/or your executive admin.
    • Use a Leap team member as a “community buddy” to walk you through the community’s activities and options.
    • As the relationship grows, turn to your buddy when you need assistance or have questions about the community.
  • Get familiar with the community’s online forum and direct mail lists for community posts, coordination, and connection as soon as you come onboard.
    • Read the posts and exchanges to get a feel for the online discussions.
    • Check out ambassador introductions in the We Need Each Other (password required). Reading these personal introductions is a wonderful way to learn about fellow ambassadors and get ideas for crafting your own email introduction.
    • Identify two or three questions you might want to post to the community once you’re comfortable.
  • Hone your message/talking points to use when discussing high performance in your organization, communities, and networks by using the community’s resources.
    • Use parts and pieces of the definition of a high-performance organization (in the Performance Imperative) for “elevator speech” opportunities.
    • Consider developing a short set of talking points to guide your interactions with others.
    • Ask a Leap support team member to walk you through the available PowerPoint presentations to adapt or excerpt for your own use.

Candidate Tracking and Nomination Process

The Onboarding and Engagement team (a part of the Leap Ambassadors support team) manages the process to identify and nominate potential candidates for the community, conduct reasonable due diligence on candidate vetting, and follow an orderly process to vet, invite, and onboard new ambassadors.  The GrowCom micro-community (MC) provides oversight for this important work.

The nomination and the ongoing discovery processes are guided by the criteria for ambassador nomination. Candidates must be nominated by a member of the community.

Ambassadors provide (and the GrowCom MC periodically requests) nominations of individuals who fit our agreed-upon criteria.(Suggestions for candidates from other sources are screened and, if there is potential fit, added to the database, but no action is taken unless an ambassador nominates a candidate.)

Preferential consideration: There is a strong preference for leaders (e.g., candidates serving in leadership roles, as lead executives, board chairs, or senior members of the management team/board in nonprofits, public agencies, or foundations; public policy and academic thought leaders; and CEOs, principals, and senior management in vendor and provider organizations).  However, we have the highest regard for front-line staff working in performance management, evaluation, finance, program design roles, etc., and want to ensure we invest in the next generation of leaders and those in lead staff roles with in-the-trenches experience who may have more latitude to proactively engage.

The Leap Ambassadors support team maintains a private database of candidates and updates the data on an ongoing basis, so that the most current candidate status is available to the GrowCom MC members. The micro-community communicates via email on an ongoing basis and meets periodically via conference call to discuss and “slot” the nominations into current, in-progress, and future slates or mark as pending if issues or questions remain unresolved.

As a matter of principle and respect, candidate information is considered private. Most of the discussion about candidates occurs within the Leap Ambassadors support team and the GrowCom MC and their names or classification are not disclosed outside of the community.  A candidate is first aware of their nomination when the “exploratory invitation” is extended.

Candidate Vetting

The Onboarding and Engagement team discreetly gathers information about candidates from the ambassador(s) who nominated or sourced them as well as others in the community who might have first-hand or indirect knowledge of the candidate.  In addition, basic background research provides a sense of a candidate’s focus and achievements in the field.

A slate of candidates is periodically developed and presented to the community for review and confirmation, via a survey that allows ambassadors to register their support (or lack of), ask questions, raise issues for any candidate, and offer assistance in connecting, vetting, inviting, and onboarding candidates.

When an ambassador raises an issue about a candidate, the Onboarding and Engagement team follows up and, if warranted, will reach out to other ambassadors. Conversations with ambassadors registering objections are candid, with an eye toward understanding the nature of the reservation and then determining whether the ambassador is in agreement with moving forward with the candidate. Any unresolved issues are taken to the GrowCom MC for deliberation.

When multiple ambassadors register concerns about a candidate, the candidate’s potential fit to the community is reviewed more thoroughly.  As a general guideline, if multiple objections aren’t easily reconciled, we defer or pass on the candidate and they are re-classified in the database. The vetting of a candidate is more thorough if there appears to be:

  • A “personality” conflict(s), where ambassador objections are based on personal experiences
  • Concern that a candidate is not a good “fit” with the culture of the community
  • A question of whether the candidate’s knowledge and reputation are relevant to the community
  • A situation where an ambassador perceives that a candidate would use the community in a way not conducive to the community’s overall objectives.

When we have moved forward with a candidate where reservations have been noted, we ensure a discussion of those reservations with the candidate for full transparency.

Candidate Invite and Onboarding

When the new slate clears the community, ambassador(s) best suited to extend the invitations are recruited.

A candidate receives an exploratory email to determine their interest in learning more about and/or joining the community. Candidates also receive an information packet and video link describing the community model and are asked to complete an “Ambassador Candidate Questionnaire.” The questions, listed below, provide a structured way for the candidate to express their degree of interest in joining the community and other insights to assess mutual fit and match.

The questionnaire consists of the following questions:

  1. Please tell us about your professional and/or personal passion for helping nonprofits, public agencies, and/or socially conscious businesses perform better and do more to take on society’s most challenging problems.
  2. Please tell us about your notable accomplishments and relevant experiences in building and strengthening organizations as a nonprofit or public agency leader, funder, and/or advisor/consultant.
  3. Based on your perception of the Leap Ambassadors Community, what is your interest in joining (or considering joining) the community and to what degree? Please share, where you can, how the community and its work align to your passion for helping the sector and your own experience in helping build and strengthen organizations.
  4. What value / benefit would you hope to derive from participation?
  5. What could you contribute to the community?
  6. All ambassadors have a lot on their plates, and we’re sure you do, too. How would your participation in the Leap Ambassadors Community fit within your other external commitments, such as boards, advisory boards, other societies/associations? How would you describe your ability, willingness, and availability?
  7. Please share any additional information or thoughts you have about the community or yourself.

Once the questionnaire has been received and the candidate expresses an interest or tentatively accepts the exploratory invite, time is spent with the candidate reviewing the criteria, what they shared in response to the questionnaire, and then discussing in-depth the community’s purpose, functions and the role and expectations of ambassadors—all done to ensure a good match and fit for the individual with the community and for the community with the individual.

Upon mutual agreement of acceptance of the invitation, a candidate is welcomed to the community. The Onboarding and Engagement team will work with the new ambassador to coordinate two additional discussions—the first on “onboarding” to make them aware of the community’s functions and services, and the second on “engagement” to discuss the options for participation and what may work best for their interest and time.

Guidelines to Ensure Broad Diversity

It’s important that, as a community, we walk the talk. As we say in the Performance Imperative:

“Executives and boards cultivate diversity and inclusion at every level of the organization, because a wide array of backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives contribute to an organization’s creativity, empathy, and effectiveness.”

We follow these guidelines to help ensure the healthiest composition of the community.

  • Diversity: Diversity in terms of race, ethnicity, gender and class is extremely relevant and important. We cannot simply give lip service to our desire to build a diverse community.
  • Age, Role, and Experience Balance: In discovering candidates to consider as potential ambassadors the clear preference is for those in leadership positions, while also ensuring some balance to bring along the next generation of leaders and those in lead staff roles with their direct hands-on experience.
  • Geography: Because most philanthropy is local, we need to ensure broad geographical representation, not limiting ourselves to those who live on the two coasts. At the same time, we want to give preference to achieving clusters of ambassadors to increase the opportunity for place-based activity to augment national/international efforts. While the community is primarily U.S.-centric, we will continue to consider individuals outside the U.S. We believe international members will benefit from participation and potentially play a role in developing an internationally focused community over time.
  • Foundation/Government/Civic/Business Representation: Specific to the community’s overall purpose of catalyzing a movement that pushes the social sector forward to higher performance, we must ensure we are sourcing individuals who are (a) philosophically aligned with our community purpose; (b) already providing support and funding organizational-development and high-performance initiatives; and (c) providing or who are predisposed to provide such support and funding.
  • Faith-Based Representation: Much of the “real” charitable money in the social services sector goes to faith-based organizations. The National Philanthropic Trust reported that 31% of charitable giving went to religious organizations. We need to source individuals from these groups who are receptive to and aligned with our purpose.
  • Discipline Representation: While the initial impetus for the community came from leaders in performance management and evaluation, a healthy community benefits from different perspectives. Just as the community needs deep expertise in performance and evaluation, it needs similar expertise in leadership, management, people and culture, program design, and finance, as well as a constructive blending of practitioners, academics, vendors/consultants, policy types, etc.
  • Domain Representation: We also want to source individuals representing the breadth of the social sector—versus the community’s initial emphasis on ambassadors from the human services arena. The community benefits from the different experiences of leaders from healthcare, K-12 education, workforce and economic development, climate change/environment, and arts/culture.

We Need the Right People…

People are key.  For the community to fully achieve its potential we need the right people to come together in community to trigger a mindshift within a vital core of the social sector to accept that mission and performance are inextricably linked.

The idea for which this nation stands will not survive if the highest goal free man can set themselves is an amiable mediocrity. Excellence implies striving for the highest standards in every phase of life.

John W. Gardner


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