What's Up With Robin Hood's Boot Camp to Help Nonprofits Get More Rigorous?

The Robin Hood Foundation has become known for its business-like approach to anti-poverty work, which includes pushing grantees to engage in strong organizational planning and to show quantifiable results. While not everyone is thrilled by the Robin Hood style, it's one key reason this organization is so popular with donors, especially from the Wall Street. Last year, Robin Hood raised a record $195 million.

Now, Robin Hood has a special effort to help local nonprofits get up to speed with its mindset and, hopefully as a result, have more success with potential funders that are hungry for hard information about planning, outcomes, and costs.

The new program is called the Grant-Ready Insights and Training Project (GRIT), and it aims to bring more rigor and sophistication to the nonprofit community in the New York City metro area.

“The goal of GRIT is to help build the capacity of New York City’s nonprofit sector,” Michael Weinstein, chief program officer at Robin Hood, said in a press release. “We will improve the lives of more low-income New Yorkers if nonprofits collaborate and exchange knowledge.”

Participating nonprofitssee the list—will be part of workshops that run this fall and include topics like program model evaluation, data tracking, private fundraising, and governance and leadership. Workshops will be led by the staff at Robin Hood, as well as external management consultants. Well into early December, Robin Hood’s program officers will continue to provide individualized coaching for the nonprofits selected to participate.

Last month, I connected with Suzi Epstein, Robin Hood’s managing director of jobs and economic security, to learn more. Epstein told me:

Organizations of all kinds grapple with articulating their results. Some groups are proficient at describing their clients and services, but struggle to present their impact. Participants in this group are in the sweet spot. As we look across the strengths of various applications, we’d probably say organizations that serve constituents such as youth and seniors may face the most difficulties in communicating outcomes and the resources needed to get to outcomes.

Epstein says an important goal, here, is to help nonprofits get on the same wavelength as funders, many of which have been raising the bar in terms of the kind of information they want to see about approach and impact. She shared, “We are tailoring the workshops so that participants’ proposals will more likely be considered by results-driven and evidenced-based philanthropies that prioritize quantifying and analyzing results, along with first-rate governance and detailed financial reporting.”

Interestingly, Robin Hood prefers to work through GRIT with organizations outside of its existing grantee orbit. Epstein explained the reasoning behind this:

Robin Hood grantees by virtue of securing support have already passed a threshold that indicates an understanding of their logic model, the costs of program delivery, data collection methods and instruments, effective program design, as well as the ability to discern the difference between inputs and outcomes.

GRIT's participants are already locked in for 2016, and there's no information yet about the next round of this interesting project.