Root Cause’s partnership with the Longfield Family Foundation is based on our shared belief that standardized, accessible information related to program performance is critical—both for nonprofits, so they have a stronger understanding of their relative performance in the field; and for funders, to guide their investment decisions. Funders rely on 990s to understand financial performance, and there should be a standardized equivalent for program performance.
With funding from the Longfield Family Foundation, Root Cause conducted a pilot to begin to understand how to implement our independent analysis of nonprofit programs on a larger scale. Root Cause partnered with the State Street Foundation to offer independent analysis to a cohort of its youth career development-focused grantees. Through the pilot, Root Cause analyzed the programs on standardized indicators and benchmarked them against their peers to provide them with a better understanding of their performance as it relates to other organizations in the field. Root Cause analysts asked for feedback throughout the process to learn what the grantees valued from this process as well as what could be improved or added.
The participating programs found the in-depth analysis, delivered in a report that benchmarked them on over 100 indicators, to be very valuable at a program, leadership, and board level. Beyond the analysis, many of the programs expressed their interest for deeper peer-to-peer learning as well as access to resources and tools to help them to take action on the recommendations provided in the analysis. Based on the success of the pilot and the feedback, Root Cause launched the Peer Performance Exchange (PPE) in March 2013, which brings together nonprofits that are committed to improving their programs and provides them with a program analysis report that includes recommendations for action, a summary report to share their data with funders and other stakeholders, peer-to-peer convenings to learn from one another, and access to a range of web-based tools and resources.
To date, Root Cause has launched exchanges in the areas of Youth Career Development and College Access and Success. This year, Root Cause has a cohort of 9 Youth Career Development organizations and 15 College Access and Success organizations in the PPE. The Exchanges include nonprofits across the United States and will continue to increase in membership size each year. Root Cause believes the Exchanges provides a path to systemic change for both nonprofits to better understand and act on areas for improvement, and funders to have a greater level of data to inform their giving.
Founded in 2007, the Longfield Family Foundation aims to enhance the educational opportunities of children in lasting and replicable ways by investing in innovative and effective programs and schools.