No Spin Zone

On Saturday night, I had the wonderful opportunity to dine with the Board of Directors of the Luther I. Replogle Foundation. The foundation distributes resources in Chicago, Minneapolis, and DC. They rotate the location of board meetings so they can visit the programs they fund, or, like in my case, meet the leaders of those programs. In November, Reach was honored to received $5,000 from Replogle Foundation, and Saturday was my first opportunity to meet the people behind those resources. It was a great evening.

The enthusiastic group asked a number of great questions, and they seemed genuinely interested in learning about the program’s progress thus far. I had the opportunity to talk for a bit about the greatest challenges we’ve faced thus far – and, it should surprise few educators that those challenges involve adults more than kids. Additionally, we spent a good amount of time speaking about my hope for Reach’s future – specifically, the way that we can be “model makers” in spreading our unique model by training others to implement it in their communities.

As I drove home from dinner, I found myself smiling – perhaps some sort of entrepreneur’s high. My excitement was related mostly to two distinct aspects of the conversation. First of all, the Replogle Foundation clearly understands the need to fund good ideas, not just established entities. They spoke openly about their hope that one day we would graduate from their portfolio. This graduation would involve Reach attaining a level at which we would be seeking significantly larger funders. While Reach has found some support from a select group of forward-thinking foundations, the foundation community seems especially risk averse these days. The Replogle Foundation provided a refreshing vacation from the current dialogue in the foundation community.

Secondly – and most important to me – I spoke honestly throughout the conversation. I have certainly been part of conversations before where I was forced to make vague generalizations about the power of our model. This usually involved putting a positive spin on our lack of experience. Without a track record, we spoke about things like potential and possibility. However, Reach is now beginning to stand on its own, which allows me to make simple statements of fact. The students are responding. Our tutors’ grades are improving. The kids love it. We are financially strong. We will add a second site this fall. We face some significant challenges, but we also have plans to address them. Great things are happening, which makes spin entirely unnecessary.

Thanks, as always, for reading.

Mark

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