The Trouble with Giving and Getting Unsolicited Advice

“Most of us are experts at solving other people’s problems, but we generally solve them in terms of our own, and the advice we give is seldom for other people but for ourselves.” –Nan Fairbrother, The House in the Country I’ve been thinking a lot about advice lately. I found myself getting defensive the other day when … Read more

Tips for an Inclusive Virtual Theory of Change Process

I am in the final stages of facilitating a theory of change process with a client group I have never met in person. Last summer, the new group invited me to help them develop a theory of change–online. Their funders collaborative requested one to provide them–and the group’s leaders–a better understanding of the social impact … Read more

Got Comfort?

Early in the COVID-19 lockdown last spring, I blogged about the importance of nonprofits and foundations holding firm to their vision, mission and values during a crisis. I quoted a speaker at an April 2020 Development Executives Roundtable (DER) session who said that their organization’s deeply embedded strategic plan had been “both a compass and a … Read more

Facing My Complicity in White-Dominant Culture

I’ve been reflecting these past several months, as the coronavirus upended all our lives, destroying the economy and sickening and taking loved ones from so many of us. The murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and so many others have weighed heavily on my heart and prompted me to dig deeper into the barriers to … Read more

Hold Firm to Your Vision, Mission and Values During Crisis

“Don’t Waste a Good Crisis” – Source disputed, see note below* By now, we’ve all gotten a lot of advice to help nonprofit and philanthropic leaders like yourselves make it through this tough time. I’ll share a few recent tips I’ve especially liked. Focus on What Really Matters Focus on your organization’s vision of a … Read more

Musings on Cultural Humility in Evaluation

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about my work with diverse leaders and staff of nonprofits who have sought my services to select meaningful indicators to track program outcomes and then to create practical strategies for collecting, analyzing and reporting the data to stakeholders. A couple of recent experiences prompted me to reflect on this … Read more

Why Is Changing Course So Tough?

When an organization’s leaders embark on the journey to systematically seek feedback from participants about their experiences of a program, they have made a decision—conscious or not—that business as usual is about to change. For the new internal program evaluation system to succeed, the group may need to acquire new resources, but for sure it’s … Read more

Are Blindspots About to Trip You Up?

A May 6, 2019 Nonprofit Quarterly article—“Hey Foundations: Nonprofits Can’t Register for This Conference, but That’s Not the Real Problem”–called out foundations and their affinity group, the Center for Effective Philanthropy (CEP), for excluding the groups that do the heaviest lifting in the social sector from their upcoming conference. Author Kari Aanestad, co-director of … Read more

Working with Assumptions and Biases

  I recently participated in an American Evaluation Association (AEA) webinar called “Working with Assumptions to Unravel the Tangle of Complexity, Values, Cultural Responsiveness”. Its content resonated deeply with me because I regularly include an Assumptions Exercise in planning processes I lead with clients and have found it to be a powerful learning opportunity. It’s … Read more

How Widely Do You Share Your Evaluation Results?

This question intrigues me because of how much it implies about an organization’s culture and values around learning, failure and transparency. In my Program Evaluation classes at CSUEB’s Nonprofit Management Program, students engage in a mock debate about whether it’s better for nonprofits to do their own program evaluation or to bring in external evaluators … Read more