Winners chosen for the 2010 Drucker Award for Nonprofit Innovation

CLAREMONT, Calif.—The Drucker Institute at Claremont Graduate University has announced the winners of the 2010 Peter F. Drucker Award for Nonprofit Innovation.

LYDIA Home Association, a Chicago-based organization whose Safe Families program offers a temporary sanctuary to children whose families are in crisis but who don’t qualify for foster care, is the recipient of the $100,000 first-place prize—an award made possible in large part through the generosity of The Coca-Cola Foundation.

In addition to providing a safe alternative to the child welfare system, Safe Families also offers support services to parents, and in many cases Safe Families volunteers continue on as mentors even after the child is returned home. What’s more, by providing an overwhelmed and resource-limited parent with a safe, temporary place for his or her child without the threat of losing custody, the program helps to reduce the potential for abuse and neglect.

This year’s second-place winner (to receive $7,500) is the Breakthrough Collaborative, a San Francisco-based organization that recruits outstanding high school and college students to help tutor low-income middle-school students and place them on a path to academic success and, ultimately, to college. Although other programs around the country use a similar model, the judges were particularly impressed with the Breakthrough Collaborative’s results: One study found that 79% of Breakthrough students go on to attend rigorous college-preparatory high schools, while 72% of Breakthrough teachers go on to work in education-related careers. The third-place winner (to receive $5,000) is New York Cares, an organization that runs volunteer programs for 1,000 New York City nonprofits, city agencies and public schools. Its innovation is the Volunteer Engagement Scale, which measures six levels of volunteering based on length of service, amount of service and degree of leadership demonstrated by volunteers; this tool is then used to improve volunteer recruitment, retention and leadership development. Last year, New York Cares mobilized over 53,000 volunteers who helped 400,000 New Yorkers in need.

The Drucker Institute will honor and include the first-place winner and two runners-up at an Innovation Forum it is hosting on November 10 in Claremont. The forum will be an intimate, invitation-only event that brings together about 25 people from the corporate and nonprofit worlds whose jobs involve managing innovation inside their organizations. Together, they will collaborate on ideas to make innovation more systematic and effective.

Since 2003, Safe Families has provided more than 2,500 placements for children in need, while carefully screening and recruiting more than 760 families who temporarily care for the children. Notably, these volunteer families are motivated by concern, not money; they receive no financial compensation for their services. Last year, 95% of children then returned safely either to their own family or to a relative, compared with only 15% of children who are reunified with their family after entering the foster-case system.

“One of the beautiful things about the Safe Families program is that by introducing a single change to a longstanding process—that is, using volunteer host families to provide temporary assistance for vulnerable children—thousands of lives have demonstrably been made better,” said Rick Wartzman, executive director of the Drucker Institute. “Peter Drucker used to say that the greatest praise an innovation could receive was for people to say, ‘Why didn’t I think of this? It’s so simple!’ This is a wonderful example of that kind of innovation.”

The judges for the Drucker Award—Wartzman; Michelle Nunn, CEO of the Points of Light Institute; Jody Greenstone Miller, the founder and chief executive of Business Talent Group and a member of the Drucker Institute’s Board of Advisors; Geneva Johnson, secretary of the Leader to Leader Institute’s Board of Governors; and C. William Pollard, chairman emeritus of ServiceMaster Co. and a member of the Drucker Institute Board—noted that Safe Families has also proven to be scalable. In Chicago, the program has nearly doubled its services annually during the past four years. It has also expanded nationally, and is now being used in more than 18 different locations throughout the United States. It is expected to be up and running at 15 additional sites within the next year.

David Anderson, executive director of LYDIA, noted that he and his colleagues are proud to win the Drucker Award. “Receiving the Drucker Award is a tremendous honor, and my staff and I are humbled by this recognition,” Anderson said. “At the same time, the award is an affirmation of our efforts to serve parents and children in crisis. Safe Families is proof positive that innovation and compassion can make a powerful impact in our society.”

The Drucker Award has been given annually since 1991 to recognize existing programs that meet Peter Drucker’s definition of innovation—“change that creates a new dimension of performance”—while making a real difference in the lives of the people they serve. Cash prizes are designed to celebrate, inspire and further the work of innovative social-sector organizations based in the United States. Thanks to funding from The Coca-Cola Foundation, the first-place award will remain at $100,000 through at least 2015, up from the $35,000 prize of previous years.