A pilot is an opportunity to pursue bounded experimentation with your philanthropy. There are two guiding principles to a pilot: One, a strong and specific learning agenda or set of hypotheses you are testing (clearly established goals), and two, the commitment to rigorously identify and track results to confirm whether you have met your goals. The purpose of the pilot is to inform your work going forward and to help you forge ahead with confidence.
Questions for consideration:
- What is required to be successful with your pilot? (For example, say you are trying to identify whether a new fellowship program is successful at building nonprofit leaders)
- What do you believe is needed to address the problem you face; or, flipped, what are the barriers you are trying to remove? (for example, you have identified a lack of nonprofit leaders)
- Who or what is that need focused upon? (you decided to focus on high potential individuals as opposed to, for example, focusing on systems or technology)
- How are you best positioned to help? Financially—how much money is needed, over what period of time; non-financially—what additional resources, if any, are needed? (For example, you invest a certain amount in a fellowship salary, and provide them access to a certain network of support)
- What are the specific questions you are answering? (For example, what are the most important skills/tools required for nonprofit leaders? What settings enable them to adopt those skills?)
- What specific and limited set of criteria will you use to assess your success? (for example, were the chosen individuals equipped to take on leadership roles after the program? Why or why not?)
- How will you measure your success?
- What processes will you use to map progress? (for example, how aligned to your fellowship program were the pilot participants’ experiences? Did participants hit all the milestones you had set out?)
- How will you engage with the relevant community (grantees, experts, other funders) to jointly assess your progress? (How will you engage with fellows and the broader community to identify what worked, and what you will do differently next time?)