Can Evaluation Help Change Your Organization’s Culture?

Often when small and mid-sized nonprofit organizations think about evaluation, it stands out as something that they would like to do, but can’t afford. Other times program evaluation is something they only do when a funder requires it. I recently came across an article that asks nonprofits to think about the ways that evaluation can be a benefit to their programs and change their organizational culture.

Fact: Performance Measures Increase Revenues and Improve Morale shares the results of a study by Measurement Resources Company exploring how nonprofits use evaluation results. It turns out that evaluation can help organizations:

  • Increase organizational efficiency
  • Use data to lead effective organizational change
  • Communicate with external and internal stakeholders
  • And the Holy Grail of them all, Increase Revenues

Of course, much more than just evaluation data is needed to lead change, but this study definitely makes the case that “we can’t afford it” is no longer a good reason to avoid evaluation.

Personal Change Day: Outsource One Thing

The 2012 Nonprofit Employment Trends Survey shows that for the first time in a while, nonprofits are planning on doing some hiring. 43% of respondents say that they are going to hire new positions in the following year.

Generally, organizations hire new employees because their current employees are stretched to the max. I personally work with program and executive directors who work 50 hours in a slow week. During grant reporting periods, that may be 60 or 70 hours.

If that sounds like your life, it may be time to consider why you’re still:

  • Mowing your lawn
  • Shopping for your own groceries
  • Ironing your own shirts

Sure, most people in the nonprofit sector are under paid compared to their for-profit colleagues, but it may be time to look at personal outsourcing. For $10 to $20 per week, you may be able to free up 2 or 3 hours of time, decrease your stress level, and have more energy to give to your family or even your job.

Here are a few possible action steps for you to take this weekend:

  1. Look around the neighborhood to find a teenager who will mow your lawn. Unless you have a huge yard, $10 or $20 a week will cover this.
  2. Consider more efficient ways to purchase groceries or cook. Many grocery stores now offer online ordering with curbside pickup for a small fee. Cooking meals in large batches can save a lot of time over the course of a week.
  3. Find a laundry service in your area that does laundry by the pound. You may be able to have your work clothes washed, dryed, ironed and folded for under $20 a week.

These are just a few suggestions for places to start. As a busy world saver, you can definitely use some outside help to manage the more mundane tasks in your life. You can probably get that help for less money than you imagined.

Are you using these strategies or any of your own? Please share them with all of us in the comments below.

photo by: Tobyotter

Hope Has No Place in a Theory of Change

In a previous post, I briefly explained How to Create a Theory of Change. You can read in more detail on that post, but the three main steps are:

  1. Desired Change Assumptions
  2. Actions
  3. Results & Reflection

Recently, Matt Forti wrote Six Pitfalls To Avoid in Developing Your Theory of Change, in which he describes some issues he has run across in his word. One point he makes resonated especially well for me:

Confusing accountability with hope. A theory of change must clarify what results a nonprofit will hold itself accountable for achieving; in other words, what results must it deliver to be successful. Defining results in this way will force your organization to get real about the impact you are signing up to create, not just what you hope will happen. While dreaming big and setting lofty goals, such as ending world hunger, can inspire your stakeholders, these are better left for your mission statement rather than your theory of change.

This is something that I have also come across in my nonprofit career. The sector is full of wonderful World Savers with great intentions, but they sometimes fall short in realism and linear thinking! If nonprofit organizations want to be successful, they need to craft programs and guiding theories of change that are grounded in realistic – if difficult to achieve – goals and action plans.

What Is Evaluation?

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In this video, I give my very brief definition of nonprofit program evaluation. In my view, evaluation is not:

  1. Financial auditing
  2. Magic

Other definitions that I talk about are:

  • The American Evaluation Association’s definition: “Evaluation involves assessing the strengths and weaknesses of programs, policies, personnel, products, and organizations to improve their effectiveness.”
  • An unattributed definition: “Evaluation = Research + Valuing”

My definition is much more simple:

Evaluation is measuring progress towards program goals.

In future videos, I will show how we all engage in evaluation daily and how beginning to evaluate your nonprofit’s programs is not nearly as scary as you might think!

Story By Numbers Episode 3, Part 2

Today’s Story By Numbers Podcast was so incredibly awesome, we had to split it up into two files. Part 1 is available here and in iTunes.

This week, Ruth and I interviewed Mary Brown of Lee Alexander Consulting. Mary specializes in innovation and design thinking, which are both areas that many nonprofits can benefit from exploring.

In Part 2, we talk about:

  • Getting the Unusual Suspects involved in your organization’s storytelling.
  • Flipping storytelling on its head by making it about the people you serve.
  • Contests as the low hanging fruit of innovation.

Thank you for listening. To be sure that you get timely updates on the podcast, be sure to subscribe in iTunes.

Play

Story By Numbers Episode 3, Part 1

Today’s Story By Numbers Podcast was so incredibly awesome, we had to split it up into two files. Part 2 will post tomorrow, both on the site and in iTunes.

This week, Ruth and I interviewed Mary Brown of Lee Alexander Consulting. Mary specializes in innovation and design thinking, which are both areas that many nonprofits can benefit from exploring.

In Part 1, we talk about:

  • How Panera Cares takes the soup kitchen model and flips it on it’s head.
  • The innovative ways that Goodwill continues to advance it’s model, especially with it’s Blue Boutiques.
  • If it seems rational, it’s probably not innovative.

Thank you for listening. To be sure that you get timely updates on the podcast, be sure to subscribe in iTunes.

Play