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

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

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

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

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

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

April 2015 Newsletter

Most institutional funders these days expect grantees to document and report their programs’ progress. They expect organizations to regularly monitor their own performance to better understand what’s working and to employ these lessons to improve program outcomes for clients and achieve greater social impact. A new Center for Effective Philanthropy (CEP) report describes what foundations … Read more

Disconnect Between Funders & Grantees on Evaluation

Most institutional funders these days expect grantees to document and report their programs’ progress. They expect organizations to regularly monitor their own performance to better understand what’s working and to employ these lessons to improve program outcomes for clients and achieve greater social impact. A new Center for Effective Philanthropy (CEP) report describes what foundations … Read more

January 2015 Newsletter

How Linking Strategy to Theory of Change Built A Stronger Organization Several years ago, a social justice organization in an underserved low-income community solicited significant stakeholder input and developed a strategic plan that laid out a bold vision and broad goals for long-term positive social change. The planning team did not create an implementation plan … Read more