On Management

The Heart of the Matter is Your Mission: Catholic Charities of Boston

Posted November 8, 2012 1:02 PM by Angie Mareino

In baseball’s first modern World Series in 1903, the Boston Americans rallied from a three game deficit to beat out the Pittsburgh Pirates. America was bustling: Henry Ford incorporated his automobile manufacturing company in a Detroit suburb, revolutionizing large-scale assembly, and the Wright brothers piloted their first flight.

Yet as immigrants continued to stream into the United States, the Catholic Archbishop of Boston, John J. Williams, was troubled. All around him he witnessed Boston’s immigrant population—which consisted of mostly Catholics—face horrific social and economic struggles. 

That same year, determined to affect change, Archbishop Williams formed the Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Boston (CCAB) with a simple yet profound goal: provide hope by assisting those in need.

Over 100 years later, CCAB faced modern-day challenges: the organization had become too complex, mired by issues that didn't connect with its core mission. Staff was apathetic; the public, unimpressed, unsure of CCAB's true purpose. In short, CCAB had lost its way.

With fresh leadership in place as the Great Recession dug in its heels, resources were scarce. Catholic Charities’ future success depended on the alignment of the board, the leadership team, and employees in pursuit of its mission to serve Boston's neediest citizens. To guide them, CCAB developed a strategic plan of action to anticipate the road ahead with a big-picture understanding of how to return to greatness. The Balanced Scorecard served as a compass to allow management to holistically evaluate and measure impact. 

In September 2008, the first Balanced Scorecard report was provided to the board of directors. The report included a strategy map with red, yellow, and green indicators that revealed performance versus plan. Further information was provided through quantitative performance data and qualitative performance assessment and recommendations. Board members were so impressed by the initial comprehensive review that they gave management a standing ovation!

During the holiday season of 2009, CCAB was able to increase its food program recipients by 20 percent as over 90 percent of food requests were met. Press mentions, tracked monthly by the Archdiocese, increased, and Catholic Charities was increasingly called upon to serve as a voice and advocate of the neediest in a positive light. By focusing on the “critical few” measures and projects, Catholic Charities positioned itself to do more with less as it embodied its core mission. We think Archbishop Williams would be proud.


  1. The Board aligned with leadership, which strengthened the agency
  2. Successes and challenges were communicated and monitored
  3. Middle management had a framework to align their activities with the strategy
  4. Because resources were better allocated, programs were set up for success
  5. Charities established a protocol for interfacing with the press to highlight the plight of Massachusetts’ poor
  6. A clear strategy and measures of effectiveness in achieving that strategy became the cornerstone of large donor acquisition
  7. Hard benefits became apparent about 18 months after the Balanced Scorecard implementation (sales and ROI increased significantly)

Catholic Charities for the Archdiocese of Boston was inducted into the 2012 Balanced Scorecard Hall of Fame for Executing Strategy on Tuesday, October 16th, during Palladium’s Global Summit for Executing Strategy in Boston. Read our press release for more information. 

New Talking Points: Birds, Worms, Strategy

Posted November 7, 2012 10:46 AM by Angie Mareino

The election is (finally!) over, and we have just the thing to fill the void. (What’s that you say? You’re perfectly content with the sound of silence for the next month, at least?)


Each year, we host a conference* for strategy and performance managers across the social and public sector. We host a slew of presenters and keynote speakers that you’ll be pleased to meet, listen to, and learn from. Not to mention, ASMG will moderate and host workshops that serve to build your skills in alignment, visioning, goal setting and milestones, and more. It’s the kind of focused event that you’ll walk away from with news you can actually USE.

We’re pretty proud of our Summit, because we make sure our speakers know their stuff, practice what they preach, and present ideas that relate toward your mission-driven organization. In other words, at the Mission-Driven Management Summit, it's here’s to you.

That’s why I URGE YOU to check out our website with the full agenda and details, and sign up before November 16th–THAT’S 10 DAYS—to take advantage of can’t-beat, early bird pricing. And, with that in mind, over the next ten days I will count down with you, listing our top ten reasons the strategy Summit is the kind of event you’ll want to talk about (to your coworkers, your boss, your network….).


Meet fellow strategists and performance managers across the Mission-Driven sector (school districts, municipalities, nonprofits, federal government, and NGOs) and expand your network while learning how others manage strategy and performance.


Eventbrite - Mission-Driven Management Summit STAY TUNED FOR REASON #9 TOMORROW… and learn more at www.missiondrivensummit.com

* (and no, not one of those giant, tradeshow-style conferences, but a small, focused, two-day event that’s centered on content, not vendors)


Using the Balanced Scorecard in Nonprofit Organizations: Plan, People, and Process

Posted October 3, 2012 10:34 AM by Angie Mareino

Today's guest post comes from Evan Stisser, a MBA candidate at Cass Business School in London. Evan, who is working on his Master's thesis regarding Balanced Scorecard (BSC) implementation in nonprofit organizations, spoke with Ascendant's Managing Partner Dylan Miyake about Ascendant's nonprofit work and BSC best practices. Here's Evan:

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On Employee Performance Reviews

Posted July 8, 2012 11:58 AM by Dylan Miyake

Employee evaluations have always been a pet peeve of mine. I hate giving them, I hate getting them (part of the reason I started Ascendant was so that I would no longer have to get an annual review), and I find them to have little to no value. They're either used to document behavior that's well understood or to create a paper trail to eventually terminate someone. And everyone is above average. So what's the point?

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Mission-Driven Management Summit 2013 Call For Speakers

Posted June 4, 2012 5:07 PM by Dylan Miyake

It's hard to believe, but we're already planning for the 2013 Mission-Driven Management Summit, just a short nine months away! We're returning to the fabulous National Press Club in Washington, DC on March 5-6, 2013. With that in mind, we're putting out a general "call for speakers" to present at next year's conference.

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The Ultimate Measure

Posted May 30, 2012 12:22 PM by Dylan Miyake

For private sector organizations, it's usually pretty easy to figure out the ultimate measure of success -- it's usually some proxy for profitability -- either earnings per share, revenue growth, or share of market. But for the clients we work with, it's often a bit harder. While we can usually define the strategic objective pretty clearly, it's harder to define the measure behind it.

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MDMS 2012 - Quotes, Ideas, and Themes

Posted March 12, 2012 9:07 PM by Brandon Kline

Thank you to all the attendees of this year's Mission-Driven Management Summit! The event, held March 6-8th at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, brought together speakers and organizations from around the world to hear case studies and participate in interactive sessions designed to help make the connection between strategy and execution, as well as reach peak performance within an organization.

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Inspiring work with nonprofits

Posted March 12, 2012 2:50 PM by Ted Jackson

When we started Ascendant more than 4 years ago, we imagined "taking our talents" to the mission-driven sector. The concept was simple. We had been helping organizations execute their strategy for more than 10 years and they were creating great results...or returns for their shareholders. With Ascendant, we wanted to do the same with mission-driven organizations, or nonprofits. We just held our fourth Annual Summit, and it confirmed that we are doing the right thing.

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2012 Excellence in Mission-Driven Management Grant Finalists

Posted March 2, 2012 7:12 PM by Ted Jackson

As you know from our announcements, emails, and tweets, we are giving away a grant for a great mission-driven performance effort. Well, the applications came in, and we narrowed it down to the final 6. Below are the summaries of the finalist stories. All the applications were inspiring, so thank you everyone that applies. It gives us inspiration to continue to help mission-driven organizations.

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Ascendant Announces "Shoot, Post, Win!"

Posted December 14, 2011 9:50 AM by Ted Jackson

WASHINGTON, Dec. 14, 2011 -- /PRNewswire/ -- Ascendant Strategy Management Group today announced the launch of its "Shoot. Post. Win." Facebook video contest for national nonprofit leaders in anticipation of the 2012 Mission-Driven Management Summit in Washington D.C. Contestants can upload video submissions to the Mission-Driven Management Summit Facebook page until February 1, 2012.

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