Knowledge Center

Knowledge Center

Continuous Improvement → Continuous Learning

When you want to get better, bite-sized videos and articles can offer just what you need to understand a problem or define your approach. Here’s a starter list. We’ll add more over time.

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Continuous Improvement

VIDEO | Jim Collins, best-selling author of “Good to Great,” talks about innovating to stimulate progress toward better results while preserving an organization’s core mission and values.

VIDEO | Sally Osberg, President and CEO of the Skoll Foundation, challenges leaders to counter their impatience for solutions with a disciplined approach to examining assumptions.

PDF FILE | Peter Drucker describes continuity and change as two poles rather than opposites. Read about ways to maintain necessary continuity while encouraging positive change.

VIDEO | Successful leaders often reject the idea of making a choice between opposing options. Instead, they integrate the best aspects of both to create a better solution. Author and strategy advisor Roger Martin explains the concept of integrative thinking.

PDF FILE | The world is changing rapidly and our theories of how to produce change become obsolete. Read Peter Drucker’s advice on challenging assumptions to make sure programs are always up to date and as effective as they can be.

PDF FILE | Peter Drucker defines innovation in terms of the impact an organization has on the people it serves. Read about the implications for strategy, budget, and more.


VIDEO | Anne Wallestad, President and CEO of BoardSource, talks about boards’ responsibility to take a step back, think long term, ask the right questions, and nurture an organizational learning culture.

PDF FILE | “You must keep your nose to the grindstone while lifting your eyes to the hills,” writes Peter Drucker. Read about acting in the short term to achieve the mission in the long term.

VIDEO | Sam Cobbs, CEO of First Place for Youth, shares what it really means to “embody the mission” of a organization in practice.

PDF FILE | Read about Peter Drucker’s take on developing a mission statement that successfully communicates the distinctive difference an organization is trying to make.

PDF FILE | Finding the right successor is never easy. Peter Drucker offers some questions to ask and things to keep in mind.

VIDEO | Drucker Institute Founding Executive Director Rick Wartzman and current Executive Director Zach First talk about the innovation opportunity during a leadership succession. They describe the planning and execution of their own leadership transition.

WEB PAGE | Leap Ambassadors Bob Rath, Ken Berger, Chip Edelsberg, Linda Johanek, Bridget Laird, Amy Morgenstern, Lou Salza, and Rick Wartzman share the 10 lessons they’ve learned from their own succession journeys.

PDF FILE | Boards and executives need to ask themselves “what do I owe the other,” rather than what does the other owe me,” writes Peter Drucker.

VIDEO | Susan Karas shares her top three lessons for leading through crisis, learned through personal experience as the new chair of the Lawrence School board of directors during the 2008 financial crisis.

PDF FILE | When a program or service is outdated—because it no longer produces results or for another reason—it’s time to let it go. Read Peter Drucker’s take on abandoning the programs and services that no longer serve the cause.

PDF FILE | Deciding what to prioritize is easy; deciding what not to prioritize—and sticking to that decision—is the most difficult thing, writes Peter Drucker.

WEB PAGE | The model identifies the core values and four key leadership competencies that government leaders need to master to best serve our country in the 21st century. Videos illustrate each.

LINK | Read about the key elements of effective board performance and find out how nonprofit boards can become more effective.

VIDEO | Find out how the Nurse-Family Partnership added systematic ways of collecting feedback from participants, using it to improve, and reporting back to participants.


VIDEO | Sotun Krouch explains how Roca gets youth workers to value data. For an organization that serves the highest risk young men, it’s about life and death.

VIDEO | Shawna Smith, CEO of Taller San Jose, talks about how staff are motivated by not only feeling, but also seeing in the data, how their work makes a difference for the young people they work with.

VIDEO | Christa Gannon, founder and CEO of Fresh Lifelines for Youth, shares how data raised questions and helped the organization and individual staff make meaningful changes.

VIDEO | Founder and Executive Director McClellan Hall talks about how the National Indian Youth Leadership Project communicated to staff why data matters and doesn’t threaten them.

WEB PAGE | Talent development is a driver of culture. Discover two ways to make sure your competency framework reflects your organization’s values around equity and inclusion.

PDF | Consider the City of Madison’s Equitable Hiring Tool for your organization’s needs. It includes a handy checklist and sample questions to add to an interview.


VIDEO | Christa Gannon, founder and CEO of Fresh Lifelines for Youth, explains the benefits of doing a theory of change—as she sees it three years later.

WEB PAGE | Melinda Tuan lays out five tactics for nonprofits to collect feedback from their clients, an excellent complement to internal monitoring and external evaluation.

VIDEO | Executive Director Richard Berlin of Harlem RBI explains the benefits of standardizing practice—for staff, organization, and ultimately the children they serve.

VIDEO | Does need for a service equate demand for it? No, say Matt Plummer and Taz Hussein of the Bridgespan Group. In this video, they talk about how to design attractive services and get target groups to adopt them.

PDF FILE | Introduce change when things are going well, suggests Peter Drucker, who goes on to describe aspects of implementation.

VIDEO | Find out how human-centered design can help organizations tap into the creativity of stakeholders, develop approaches that work, and bring them to market. Jocelyn Wyatt, CEO of, explains design thinking.

PDF FILE | Peter Drucker encourages us to look for changes that have led to meaningful results but are not generally understood or in widespread use. What opportunities do they offer?

PDF FILE | Organizations can only learn about the values of those they serve by asking them, writes Peter Drucker.

PDF FILE | Peter Drucker argues that the only way to be effective is to deliver what the recipient of services finds valuable and wants.

PDF FILE | Peter Drucker writes about the seven sources of innovative opportunity, from the unexpected success or failure to new knowledges.


VIDEO | Sustainability is about much more than finances. Founder and CEO Christa Gannon shares what it means to Fresh Lifelines for Youth.

VIDEO | President and CEO Carol Rivchun shares an example of how data helped Youth Opportunities Unlimited raise funds.

VIDEO | Need to explain to stakeholders why typical funding practices need to change? Share this funny analogy to a pizza shop.

VIDEO | William Attaway, lead pastor of Southview Community Church, talks about why margin matters and how to build it.

VIDEO | Get over the fear of asking and learn how to seek–and receive–donations for your nonprofit. Rueben Mayes shares seven keys to successful fundraising at TEDxWSU 2014.

VIDEO | Advancement Director Jayne Eiben shares how relying on donors with strong mission affinity and nurturing those relationships became a key to successful fundraising at the Lawrence School.

WEB PAGE | This tool will help you and your colleagues evaluate whether a funding opportunity makes strategic sense and is feasible for your organization. Use the online questionnaire or a pdf.

WEB PAGE | This guide helps board members understand key financial statements–balance sheets and income statements–for carrying out the legal responsibility of financial oversight.

PDF FILE | Hilda Polanco, founder and managing director of Fiscal Management Associates, shares tips on how nonprofits can build reserves.

PDF FILE | This template and guide help you create your nonprofit’s own reserve fund policy. Pro-tips help tailor it to your organization’s circumstances.

ARTICLE | Could you help build your organization’s reserves by asking a foundation for a “reserve grant”? This article explores what it is and who should consider asking for one.

LINK | Try the self-assessment guide to understanding how this site can help. You’ll find loads of resources on financial planning, operations, monitoring, and governance.


VIDEO | CEO Bridget Laird explains how Wings for Kids’ leadership creates a culture of learning that is focused on doing better for the children they serve, and how it increases staff commitment to the organization.

VIDEO | An innovative culture is a performance culture, says Mario Morino, Leap of Reason author and co-founder of Venture Philanthropy Partners. By modeling and fostering curiosity and learning throughout the organization, leaders can improve results through many small steps.

WEB PAGE | Social impact organizations should hold themselves accountable not only for what they accomplish, but also for how they accomplish it, argues Alexa Cortes Culwell.

VIDEO | Mike Duggan, executive director of Domus Kids, talks about creating a culture that isn’t punitive and encourages learning by all staff.

PDF FILE | Peter Drucker recommends that every organization build four entrepreneurial activities into its day-to-day management.

WEB PAGE | When faced with complex problems, harnessing the insights of people across your organization can yield creative solutions. Lawrence School leaders share their strategy for collective problem-solving in a series of videos.

VIDEO | A self-proclaimed ‘Type A’ leader explains the real value he’s found in stepping back and celebrating wins with the leadership team at Southview Community Church.

VIDEO | President and CEO Carol Rivchun talks about the many ways in which data is part of the culture at Youth Opportunities Unlimited.

VIDEO | Find out what a learning culture looks like at Lawrence School and how it has helped break down department silos and get everyone working together toward a shared goal: educating children who learn differently.

PDF | Trying to figure out how to create a race equity culture? Here’s how to move your organization through the Race Equity Cycle by activating specific organizational levers.


VIDEO | CEO Tess Reynolds explains how New Door Ventures compared case manager’s outcomes with productive results.

VIDEO | Without collecting data on your performance, you’ll never know when you have a problem. Isaac Castillo explains how the Latin American Youth Center discovered one of their programs was having the exact opposite effect of what they intended – and how they went about correcting it.

VIDEO | Carol Rivchun, President and CEO of Youth Opportunities Unlimited, shares an example of how easy it is to get an impression that isn’t supported by the data. She talks about how surprising data helped them improve.

PDF FILE | Read about short-term accomplishments and long-term results; quantitative and qualitative measures, in Peter Drucker’s words.

WEB PAGE | Here’s what you need to understand, gather, and use client feedback—from the Feedback Handbook and Glossary to the Feedback Quiz.






About Our Contributors

BoardSource supports, trains, and educates nonprofit leaders from across the country and throughout the world. BoardSource provides leaders with an extensive range of tools, resources, and research data to increase board effectiveness and strengthen organizational impact.

The Bridgespan Group is a global nonprofit organization that collaborates with mission-driven leaders, organizations, philanthropists, and investors to break cycles of poverty and dramatically improve the quality of life for those in need. The organization provides consulting to nonprofits and philanthropists, leadership development support, and developing and sharing insights—all with the goal of scaling social impact.

The City of Madison’s Racial Equity & Social Justice Initiative aims to establish racial equity and social justice as a core principle in all decisions, policies and functions of the City of Madison.

The focus of innovation is not “knowledge but performance,” wrote Peter Drucker. Through that lens, The Drucker Prize recognizes the most innovative and high-performing nonprofit organizations. The Drucker Institute has generously allowed us to share their content, designed specifically to help drive performance in nonprofits: a series of Drucker readings and in-depth video interviews with leading social sector thinkers. Find selected videos and readings above. For more, visit the Drucker Prize Resource Library.

The Edna McConnell Clark Foundation’s PropelNext program assists promising nonprofits in strengthening their capacity to use data for learning, self-evaluation, and ongoing improvement. The Leap Ambassadors Community partnered with the foundation to create a series of videos featuring leaders of PropelNext grantees, and we share some of them here. For more, visit their YouTube channel.

Equity in the Center works to shift mindsets, practices, and systems within the social sector to increase race equity. We believe in a future where nonprofit and philanthropic organizations define, implement and advance race equity internally while advocating and centering it in their work externally.

Feedback Labs is a non-profit organization dedicated to making feedback loops the norm in development, aid, philanthropy and non-profits. They believe that people are the best experts in their own lives and they should ultimately drive the policies and programs that affect them.

Fiscal Management Associates provide financial consulting and advisory services; outsourced solutions; and training and coaching to build a community of individuals with the confidence and skills to lead organizations that change the world.

Human Services Council (HSC) strengthens New York’s nonprofit human services sector, ensuring all New Yorkers, across diverse neighborhoods, cultures, and generations reach their full potential. HSC works on systemic changes that improve the way human services organizations partner with government agencies, reduce risks associated with government contracts, and increase their financial health.

The Nonprofit Quarterly (NPQ) envisions a world in which we live in an active democracy whose values are fully grounded in human rights, economic and social justice, racial equity, and thriving communities. Our mission is to foster an active, engaged and sometimes disruptive civil sector.

The Partnership for Public Service is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that strives for a more effective government for the American people. It convenes stakeholders from across the public and private sectors to solve critical management challenges, and works with federal agencies, Congress and the administration to deliver results.

Stanford Social Innovation Review (SSIR) is an award-winning magazine and website that covers cross-sector solutions to global problems. SSIR is written by and for social change leaders from around the world and from all sectors of society—nonprofits, foundations, business, government, and engaged citizens.

TEDx brings the spirit of TED’s mission of ideas worth spreading to local communities around the globe. TEDx events are organized by curious individuals who seek to discover ideas and spark conversations in their own community. TEDx events include live speakers and recorded TED Talks, and are organized independently under a free license granted by TED.

The Wallace Foundation is a philanthropy working nationally to answer important questions that, if solved, could help strengthen practices and policies within a field. Its mission is to foster improvements in learning and enrichment for disadvantaged children and the vitality of the arts for everyone.

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