Monday, August 24, 2009

The Blue Sweater: End of the Summer Reading

In her book, The Blue Sweater, Jacqueline Novagratz, founder of the Acumen Fund, traces her journey from banking in Africa to running the Fund. The financial model of Acumen is difficult to emulate – the Rockefeller Foundation (where Novagratz has been a staff member) seeds her with $5 million dollars, and she successfully raises another $3 million –before Acumen has a name. While Novagratz's funding model is difficult to copy, the power of her relationships is not.

What else is the take away from the nonprofit leader? Her obsession to find and support actions that create real change. This book will give you a healthy restlessness to examine the result of your activities. What are your intended consequences? Are you creating sustainable outcomes? Are people’s lives changed for the better, both immediately as they solve their current issue and long-term? Do they gain skills to solve similar future challenges when they come again? Can you be more effective by slightly or significantly alternating the way you do business? As leaders in the nonprofit world doing good, Novagratz invites us to live in the harder question –are we effective?

Novagratz’s book also supports the work our firm has been doing. Instead of bandaging the symptoms, we’ve been creating donor requests that increase the organization’s capacity to improve people lives long-term. For example, with one client we’re developing a loan pool that provides the nonprofit funding relief and the opportunity for service recipients to help others by long-term recycling of the loan money.

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