What Has Been the Impact of Your Fellowship Programs to the Communities You Fund? and Have You Been Able to Measure That Impact?

This month we are delighted to feature a question recently asked during our July webinar, Fellowship programs: Honoring family legacy and building future community leaders. This webinar highlighted the benefits and impact fellowship programs have on not only community members, but also the family foundation. Fellowship programs can be a complementary program to your grantmaking that honors the legacy of a loved one and encourages further collaboration efforst with community leaders. The featured presenters are Adam Simon from the Schusterman Foundation, Susan Dobkins and Dion Rurik from The Russell Family Foundation, and Monisha Kapila from ProInspire.

Our webinar participant inquired about the following:

“What has been the impact of your fellowship programs to the communities you fund? And have you been able to measure that impact?”

Responses from our July webinar panelists included:

Through our entrance, middle, and exit interviews with our fellows, we are able to measure impact. We also did a more global evaluation in 2010.

I would highlight three different ways that we’re having an impact. Of course, there are many.

The first one that our fellows have identified is one of their own self-confidence, their ability to speak up in their workplace, their communities, and this results in them taking on more leadership in organizations. It’s resulted in many people being promoted in non-profits. We even have a principal of a lower-income school at this point, who is part of our graduate network.

The second impact that people say that they’re having in the skills that they’re using are the facilitation skills, so a very discrete set of facilitation skills to use in community settings. For example, several of our fellows mentioned that for the first time they’re really involving stakeholders in setting agendas. And this is moving people from the idea stage to coming to consensus on what their decisions are to actions.

And then the last thing that I’ll highlight is many of our fellows have appreciated and have internalized the work that they are doing around racial equity, and they feel a responsibility to move through difficult conversations around different parts of equity and diversity and inclusion, and to promote those in their community work, and also in the organizations that they’re working in.

—Susan Dobkins, program officer, The Russell
Family Foundation

I’ll share a couple different ways to answer that question.

The first is the part we don’t yet know because we have recently initiated the fellowship program, but one of the things we did is have each fellow fill out a fairly extensive 360 and personal assessment using one of these more robust, off-the-shelf tools. They’re doing it again at the end. So, we will be able to measure the impact that way.

We’re hearing lots of anecdotal evidence from their impact on their organizations already, and, obviously, are tracking that and measuring it as we go.

I will say that of the 24 fellows, I’ve heard from three of their supervisors who have talked about how it was an incredibly important retention tool for those individuals who were ready to go and find something else to continue growing. This fellowship program has enabled them to stay in their current jobs, because this became the way that they were able to retain that talent, as opposed to people leaving.

And then just one minor proof point of impact, at least of interest, is that since tracking usage rates on our website, it is definitely one of the highest hit rates of any time since the day that we launched and announced the fellowship, just far beyond. It is evidence to us of this hitting a real chord amongst the network in the communities in which we operate.

—Adam Simon, Director of Leadership Initiatives,
Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation

I have a couple things from what we’ve seen with our programs around the impact on the community. One of the things that we measure with our fellowship is what’s the retention of those organizations? And we see 80%, year-over-year, are either keeping their fellow, or bringing in a new fellow. So, really, seeing this as a valuable tool and how their rating satisfaction on the fellow’s impact.

The other thing that we look at is on our managers’ program that’s around developing the skills, is we’re looking at pre and post, how confident are they in having difficult conversations? How confident are they in delegating work, in managing up, and we see a really tremendous increase from before and after the program around those.

 — Monisha Kapila, Founder and CEO, ProInspire

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