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

The Difference A Theory of Change Makes: Ways The Tough Process Reaps Big Rewards

Theory of change planning is hard work; there’s no question about this. It challenges leaders to question why they do what they do and have been doing for a long time. The process forces the leaders to make tough decisions, decisions they may have avoided making for some time. For instance, it is not uncommon … Read more

Don’t Bite Off More Than You Can Chew: Tips for Practical Performance Measurement Using Pre/Post Surveys

My firm has worked with a number of small nonprofit organizations that wanted help figuring out how to collect and analyze program outcomes data. They seek answers to such questions as: “Are our programs really working?” and “Are participants being helped in the ways we intend?” Most request help “creating a survey”, which, on the … Read more

Making Program Evaluation More Accessible to Nonprofits

I just finished teaching a 2-evening Program Evaluation course at California State University East Bay. This month, I engaged students in a quasi-debate fueled by a 2-part SSIR essay arguing that nonprofit service providers should NOT evaluate their own program outcomes. Because they lack social science research expertise and face conflicts of interest in reporting … Read more

October 2015 Newsletter

I just finished teaching a 2-evening Program Evaluation course at California State University East Bay. This month, I engaged students in a quasi-debate fueled by a 2-part SSIR essay arguing that nonprofit service providers should NOT evaluate their own program outcomes. Because they lack social science research expertise and face conflicts of interest in reporting … Read more

July 2015 Newsletter

I recently came across a powerful metaphor linking evaluation and storytelling. The source of the metaphor, grantmaker John Bare of the Arthur M. Blank Foundation, says that when he first meets nonprofit staff, he asks them what they–not their funders or donors–need to know about a program they’re implementing to learn which parts work and … Read more

Moneyball for Government and the Marketplace for Evidence

Heard of Moneyball for Government? If not, you might want to know about this growing movement encouraging policymakers to rely more heavily on the use of data and evidence to make funding decisions–like the Oakland A’s portrayed in the 2011 film began using statistics to choose their team. The folks behind Moneyball for Government include … Read more