We Found a Partner!
Email to: All Ambassadors on 3/30/2023
Subject: Second Message to Full Community: We Found a Partner!
From: Mario Morino
This message follows my March 17 email which provided updates on the current status of the Leap Futures Initiative (LFI) and the availability of the Leap support team (LST). I am now pleased to share the good news that an agreement in principle has been reached for the Leap Ambassadors Community (LAC) to move forward as part of the National Council of Nonprofits (NCN), which is led by long-time active Ambassador Tim Delaney. The final agreement is contingent on confirmation of support by the LAC (and, of course, completion of final legal negotiations). Below, you’ll find descriptions for the partnership rationale, partnership terms, LAC support, transition timing, backup plan, LST availability, and next steps.
A Positive Outcome
Reflecting back to the expectations when the LFI began in March 2022, this agreement with NCN to move forward (pending LAC confirmation and final legal negotiations) keeps the LAC intact, which represents a meaningful and positive outcome. The core elements of the community—the online forum, ambassador relationships, and public access to published content on the website and YouTube channel—can continue to benefit from the collective knowledge and relationships you’ve created. The LAC’s future success depends on the NCN partnership and your continued engagement.
In January, after narrowing from the dozens of potential homes for LAC that were considered, Monitor Institute by Deloitte (MIbD) and the LFI Steering Committee (SteerCo) initiated discussions with several potential candidate organizations and soon focused on NCN as the top choice. MIbD passed the baton to Venture Leadership Collective, led by ambassador Andrew Niklaus who is representing the SteerCo, with support from Debra Natenshon, to secure an anchor partner and funding, no later than May 31. Andrew is also working in consultation with the LST and me, representing the Morino Institute (the holder of LAC assets). In its final meeting in early February, the SteerCo was fully supportive of moving forward, as quickly as possible, with the National Council of Nonprofits as the top choice because it:
- is a trusted, stable, sustainable, highly respected organization serving the nonprofit sector
- is closely aligned with the LAC’s purpose, values, and messaging
- is particularly suited because of its culture, technology platforms, and proven capacity for knowledge development and knowledge dissemination
- is the largest network of nonprofits in North America with broad reach and readership
- has an in-depth understanding of the LAC (Tim was one of the 14 founding ambassadors and has been an active contributor, and NCN has disseminated LAC resources to its constituents)
- brings the enthusiastic support and commitment of its CEO, leadership team, and board
- has the LST’s solid support
- has my strong endorsement, due to my affiliation with and knowledge of NCN under Tim’s leadership. (In full disclosure, I’ve been a modest financial supporter to NCN for the past several years because of the value I see in their network and the impact it is making.)
The proposed partnership is centered around NCN taking ownership of the community’s assets, keeping the website and YouTube channel publicly available, and housing the online forum beginning in early June, assuming contingencies are met by the May 31 deadline. The Morino Institute, which holds the assets and their rights on behalf of the LAC, would, after LAC confirmation, enter into an agreement to donate the LAC assets to NCN. In return, the NCN would agree for a period of at least three years to:
- Keep the LAC website and YouTube channels publicly available and provide platform maintenance with no obligation to make content updates or additions.
- Administer the LAC Google Group to ensure ambassadors are able to use the online forum, as they do today, for interaction and sharing; content development and curations will be done by ambassadors. The plan includes the establishment of an LAC Advisory Group, made up of a small group of volunteers from the SteerCo and members of the LST, to provide strategic and operational oversight for the facilitation and moderation of the online forum, working in conjunction with the NCN. The LAC Advisory Group members will be identified by Venture Leadership Collective and SteerCo, in consultation with NCN.
- Own the LAC branding, intellectual property rights, processes, content, and supporting materials.
So, at a minimum, the LAC will continue to have the ability to communicate with each other and have access to previous content for at least three years.
The agreement in principle is based in the context of what we’ve said all along: the LFI process has been focused on the LAC’s future post-2023. “As part of this planning process, our goal is to solidify a partnership by mid-2023 to complete the transition to a partner organization by the end of 2023.” We recognized that even if we could reach an agreement by mid-year, there would still be value for everyone in creating breathing space. Such an air gap will give the community time and space to find its new equilibrium. Likewise, it will respect the natural life cycle of an organization as the LAC shifts from being fully supported by 9 FTEs to just one. Everyone expects healthy attrition to occur, because it’s part of the evolutionary process when a group encounters a major change. Finally, we contemplated that the receiving organization (in this case NCN) will need time to adjust and plan for a smooth onboarding of the LAC.
Fortunately, Tim and NCN share the SteerCo’s belief that even more can be done. One of the ideas discussed was for the LAC Advisory Group and NCN to consider engaging in project planning this fall to explore what can be done with LAC 2.0. Much will depend on additional funding, as the earlier firm commitments from the two foundations are provisional on other funders joining. We cannot expect NCN to suddenly step forward and support the LAC without funding.
It’s exciting and promising that NCN hopes to work with the LAC later in the year to achieve something close to the best-case scenario identified in MIbD’s executive summary of the LFI process, which now includes integrating the LAC into the NCN organization and providing scaled-down support to operate the community (e.g., primarily facilitating the online forum), made possible by hiring at least one talented FTE or its equivalent. The addition of staff is contingent on receiving sufficient funding for three years.
This partnership and plan would have the LAC transitioning to a new home with NCN, starting in early June.
- The LST will continue to actively support the LAC through June, when it will start to scale down its support.
- As of September, the online forum and ambassador relationships would continue without LST support; any curation of conversation threads or topics would be done by ambassador volunteers.
- Based on recommendations from the SteerCo and NCN, the LAC will find its new equilibrium, over a period spanning August-December.
- The proposed LAC Advisory Group would assist NCN with a smooth transition.
- If NCN seeks to move toward the best-case scenario later in the year, this group could support NCN with thought partnership and support to determine the best way to fully integrate LAC into NCN.
It’s important to note that, in any of the scenarios, staffing to support the LAC will be significantly scaled down from the LST today. But, I’m confident you, because of your collective knowledge and relationships, will continue to find great value in the community.
The LST is well positioned and ready to transfer assets and provide basic support to help in the transition, assuming the contingencies are met. Debra and Andrew, representing SteerCo, and the LST will provide regular updates, tied to these proposed key milestones:
- Reach agreement on terms for NCN to accept responsibilities and receive donated community’s assets and their rights from Morino Institute
- Seek confirmation from 1) the LAC to move forward with the proposed partnership and plan, and 2) have ambassadors confirm their desire to continue as LAC members or opt out
- Form the proposed LAC Advisory Group
- Reach final agreement for NCN to receive LAC donated assets and rights from Morino Institute, contingent on substantial confirmation from ambassadors
- Host town hall to introduce NCN to the LAC (or, if a substantial part of the LAC doesn’t confirm their support for the proposed agreement, discuss the backup plan to sunset the community)
- Complete transfer of all assets and NCN assumes responsibility to warehouse the LAC assets
- Begin the transition for online forum support to ensure uninterrupted access
- Conclude LST community support
- Complete all transition activities so that LAC operates within NCN.
While hope runs high that the LAC will confirm the plan and partnership with NCN and that the Morino Institute and NCN will complete the asset transfer agreement by May 31, it remains prudent for the LST to have a backup plan for sunsetting the assets if this partnership or another acceptable relationship doesn’t occur in this time frame.
Sunsetting assets means that the website and YouTube channel would no longer be available, but the online forum and relationships could continue if a core group of ambassador volunteers step up to maintain it. It simply requires ambassadors to continue their online dialogue, sharing, and learning.
In my first message, I shared that I must prioritize our team members’ futures and support them in starting their career transitions, as early as this summer, knowing that some may find opportunities even sooner. As you may have seen, LST Community Facilitator Samantha Sherrod has found a great opportunity with the FDIC and is departing this week. I very much hope all of you will be open to helping team members with advice, referrals, and opportunities as they seek places where they can continue to contribute and thrive.
Future communications will be from Debra and Andrew, representing the SteerCo, and, we hope, NCN. I’m stepping back again to let the process work.
Please know how grateful I am to all of you for these efforts and finding a way for the LAC to live on.