Theory of Change Sample Projects


Grantee Capacity Building

After developing its own theory of change, the Bella Vista Foundation decided to invest in building grantee capacity using the same approach as a way to increase the foundation’s ability, down the road, to evaluate its social impact. Leaders felt that an early step was to help grantees clarify their intended impact and boost their capacity to evaluate and learn which of their activities led to the desired outcomes. The foundation invited their early childhood development grantees to a theory of change workshop and to apply for small grants for facilitated theory of change planning and logic modeling. Five groups received the “mini-grants” and received one or both services.

“Eleanor worked with several grantee organizations, each quite different from the others in terms of their current level of expertise in this type of planning. She was thorough, patient, effective and great to work with. Thanks, Eleanor, for making this a successful project for everyone.” – Mary L. Gregory, Philanthropy Executive at Pacific Foundation Services & Executive Director, Bella Vista Foundation

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Fitting All the Pieces Together

Leaders of this multi-pronged human services group needed an overview of their complex organization. Eager to enhance the organization’s ability to both bring about and demonstrate social impact, they wanted a shared vision of long-term community impact and a visual tool to help them share their vision.

“This process led us to consensus on our ultimate intended impact, target population and program outcomes in just three meetings. It was a breakthrough and is changing how we talk about the agency.”—Alicia Vazquez, Director of Programs, Good Samaritan Family Resource Center

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Reducing Silo-ism to Increase Impact

Leaders of this rural anti-poverty organization were seeking ways to increase the group’s impact while continuing to provide residents the only human services available in the region. They believed that creating and implementing a results framework--a theory of change and logic models--for the organization’s diverse activities would both increase operational efficiency and help board and staff better understand how all their efforts work synergistically to create meaningful, community-wide social change.

“Eleanor worked well with members of our diverse team; she was patient, competent, engaging, creative and funny. Undaunted by the complexity of our rural community resource center, she held the big picture but also was willing and able to crawl into the details. She helped our entire team grasp and tie together all of Puente’s moving parts. This enabled our program managers to combat a sense of isolation from working in silos and got them on the same page [about our intended impact]…. We now use the theory of change frame to make decisions about new programs.”—Kerry Lobel, Executive Director, Puente de la Costa Sur

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Helping Board Members Talk Mission

Leaders of this small anti-poverty nonprofit wanted to educate the entire board about why the organization was needed and how its unique model worked. They hoped that a theory of change process would enable board members to gain greater clarity and be able to more consistently and confidently share the organization’s mission and impact.

“The greatest advantage of this process was the education and motivation of our board. Before, some board members didn’t feel fully comfortable explaining how our approach led to outcomes. Eleanor’s process helped everyone think about our mission from their own perspective. Now each member owns the message and can talk about it in their own words. They’re more willing to go out and speak to the community.” –Janis Baron, Founder/Board Chair, Sunday Friends

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