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 GrantAdvisor.org … 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

Gauging Progress Toward High Performance

Last newsletter (July), I wrote about the plethora and uses of nonprofit organizational capacity assessment tools, such as the popular OCAT and CCAT. In researching such tools, I came across one that was new to me–Performance Practice (also called the Performance Imperative Organizational Self-Assessment or PIOSA). I liked its structure, transparency and the way its developers and … 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