Who’s Assessing Whom & Why?

I’ve been reflecting on the growing popularity of organizational capacity assessment tools, used for a variety of purposes by nonprofit leaders, consultants and funders. I did some research and discovered there are literally dozens of tools available for free or low cost online. A thoughtful 2017 guide includes a database of 91 tools and describes … Read more

Can I Be Frank?

Sitting down to write this post, ideas were swirling around my head, colliding into each other. I had just read several recent reports and blog posts set aside in a “food for thought” email folder. There was Open Road Alliance’s startling—but not surprising—research finding that “Funder-created Obstacles” were the most common type of roadblock mission-driven … Read more

Empathy and Social Justice

A couple weeks before the year-end holidays, I fell down and injured my knee and wrist. While not the first time I’ve had serious injuries, it was the first time an injury caused me serious mobility challenges. For over a week, I could barely walk and didn’t go out much. The experience was humbling. When … Read more

Do Your Meetings Get Stuck in the ‘Groan Zone’?

I recently took a 3-day facilitation skills training at Community At Work in San Francisco. If you aren’t familiar with CAW, you might wish to get better acquainted with this terrific, 31-year-old consulting, training and organization development think tank organization. Taught by masterful trainer/facilitator Sarah Fisk, a long-time senior consultant there, the Group Facilitation Skills: … Read more

Examining Cultural Bias in Evaluation

Over the past few years, I’ve been called to examine the ways my cultural, racial and socio-economic background influences the work I do with nonprofit staff and boards, especially in program evaluation projects. I’d like to share a few insights I’ve gained from this exploration of what is now often called “white privilege”. My middle … Read more

Start Where You Are: Using Program Data to Learn, Manage & Report

Editor’s note: My colleague Deb Stephenson, an advisor to nonprofits on the design and implementation of information systems and a genius at diagnosing and solving technology problems, and I co-authored this post. With all the talk about nonprofits needing to prove their impact and stories about “big data”, pressure to keep up is prompting some … Read more

A Key to Working with Consultants: The Design Team

In my July 2016 newsletter, I wrote about a strategy project I was leading–with consulting partner Regina Neu–for a professional membership association. I described the well-received retreat exercise we developed to help board and staff members better understand how important decisions were currently being made and to design more robust and transparent decisionmaking protocols for … Read more

Talking About “What Works”

How do you answer questions about the difference you are making in the world? Do you and others in your nonprofit talk about program outcomes or program impact? In what ways do you describe the changes in your clients after they’ve been through your program? Do you compare their knowledge, attitudes or behavior after your … Read more

Does Everyone Understand How Decisions Are Made?

Last time, I mentioned I was launching a “strategy alignment” project with a professional membership association. Consulting partner Regina Neu and I were hired to help the association: 1) hone in on the most crucial of their current strategic plan’s long list of priorities, 2) create an actionable implementation plan with accountability, 3) develop greater … Read more