Friends of the Children had only five chapters across the country when I became CEO in 2012, and we hadn’t launched a new chapter in nine years. But we knew our model worked, and we had the data to prove it.

Our founder, Duncan Campbell, a successful business entrepreneur who had a very challenging childhood, had commissioned research to learn what support children needed who had experienced childhood trauma and/or were living in economically challenged households. The research pinpointed a long-term, consistent relationship with a caring adult as the crucial factor, so Campbell founded Friends of the Children in Portland, Oregan, with an innovative model: We pair salaried, professional mentors (called “Friends”) with each child from age 4-6 through high school graduation, committing to at least 12 years, no matter what.

Having successfully launching new chapters in New York City and Boston, we realized our model was scalable. But since we had no national funding—or national team—to support scaling efforts, Campbell and our board of directors needed to launch an aggressive $25-million national expansion campaign, allowing us to launch five new chapters and enroll more youth at two of our existing chapters.

Here are some of the lessons we’ve learned:

  • Invest in performance management. 
  • Invest in independent research and evaluation.
  • Ensure new sites are financially sustainable from the get-go. 
  • Get buy-in from the local community. 
  • Diversify funding streams.
  • Ensure proper oversight. 
  • Innovate your model. 

We like to say that our model works because our secret sauce is love. But that love takes the form of strategy, performance management, data, planning, investment, and a relentless commitment to improve.

Read the full article about lessons in scaling by Terri Sorensen at Stanford Social Innovation Review.