Aspire Public Schools: Building the Organizational Capacity for Healthy Growth

Amy Saxton, Mike Perigo
It’s the age-old dilemma for nonprofit leaders: whether to take resources that could be spent on programs and invest them instead in the organization itself, hiring much- needed staff, or upgrading outdated computer systems. Given the urgency of the needs nonprofits exist to serve, outward-facing initiatives win out nearly every time. It’s hard to rationalize purchasing new software or making another long-term investment when the money, applied directly to a program, might make an immediate difference in the life of a service recipient. But there’s a reason that this selfless behavior, however right it feels in the short term, is dangerous over time. It’s roughly the same reason that flight attendants tell airline passengers that if the cabin loses pressure, they’re to put their own oxygen masks on before helping others. If your own capabilities are compromised, you won’t be able to help others as effectively—particularly over time. Nonprofits that allow organizational investments to lag program growth often struggle. It isn’t just that staff burn out. Ultimately, results can be threatened, too. This was the situation Aspire Public Schools was facing in 2006. Driven by their desire to improve educational opportunities for California youth, Aspire’s leaders had committed to an aggressive growth track. Two years into that plan, however, with new schools opening on schedule, they found themselves overtaxed and concerned about maintaining quality outcomes. It was no longer just an option but rather an imperative to tend to the organization’s internal needs.
Access through the Cases and Simulations Portal from Rutgers SPAA
Copyright © 2018, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. All rights reserved.