Category Archives: Uncategorized

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.

Wrapping up the 2012 Blogathon

This is my 31st day of posting daily on thanks to the 2012 WordCount Blogathon. It’s been a great experience and I would like to thanks Michelle Rafter and her Blogathon team for all the work they put into this event.

For me, the Blogathon has been motivation to get content on my site and start to plan out what it will be and the role it will have in my business going forward. I’ve done a lot of work in the background to accomplish this. I’ve also experienced a lot of highlights this month:

  • Starting the Story by Numbers podcast with my podcasting partner Ruth Terry.
  • Going from essentially no traffic to having over 500 visitors. This may sound like a small number for many sites, but I’m quite happy with the rate of growth.
  • Posting my first online business offer – Quick and Dirty Consulting Services. In order to pull this off, I had to write the offer, set up a PayPal account, and begin publicizing it.
  • Had some great comments made on some posts.
  • Set up Feedburner to manage RSS feeds and email subscriptions to the site.

So, what will the future bring for the Changing River Consulting site? Well, I’m going to cut back posting to three times per week.

  • Tuesday will feature a post about Evaluation.
  • Thursday will feature a post Change Management.
  • Saturday will remain Personal Change Day for a while. If the idea doesn’t work for my audience or begins to feel like a bad fit, I may change things around.

Ruth and I also plan to continue making podcast twice per month and of course I will post them here.

My thanks to everyone who has found their way to my site, taken the time to comment, and generally made this a very rewarding month!

When Have You Prepared Enough?

This weekend I’ve spent a lot of time working on my beat up old sail boat. It’s gotten a lot of TLC this off season and is much less beat up than when my partner and I bought it. However, there is still always more to do, and today we found ourselves finishing up a few “small” projects while it seemed like the rest of the world was out enjoying the water this holiday weekend.

This situation brings to mind all of the planning, measuring, and analyzing that we often do in evaluation. There is always tweaking we can do, there are always things we can improve. When is it enough? When should we actually call it good and let the program staff do their work?

If I Started Blogging Today…

Today is a theme writing assignment for the 2012 WordCount Blogathon. The challenge is to reflect on what I would do differently if I started my blog today. Since I only really started adding content to my blog during this month, all I can say is I would have…

…Started sooner!

I have been an independent consultant for nearly three years now. I’ve been very fortunate to never struggle to find clients and make a good living in this time. However, now that I am getting content loaded onto the blog, attracting visitors from search engines, through Twitter and even iTunes, I know that if I had done this two years, I could have had a much better known blog, educated more small and mid-sized nonprofits on the workings of evaluation, and probably met some great clients to work with.

No point in dwelling on all that, though. I am thrilled that the Blogathon has pushed me to post every day and make up for some lost time. I am also excited about how far the site has already come and where I will take it in the near future. I hope you will join me, either by checking the site frequently, or subscribing through Feedburner or email using the boxes on the right side of this page.

photo by: Tim J Keegan

Facilitation Series: All the Posts

I ended up writing six posts in my Facilitation series. Here they are, in chronological order.

What is Facilitation?

What Does a Facilitator Do?

Prepare for a Facilitation in Three Steps

What Happens During a Facilitation?

The Report: How Does a Facilitation End?

 Facilitation: The Good, Bad and Ugly

I hope you’ve enjoyed the series. If I’ve missed anything or you would like to see follow up posts on certain issues, let me know in the comments below this post.

Welcome to Changing River Consulting

You work in a small to medium size nonprofit. The staff and volunteers work hard daily to address needs in your community.  You think you are doing good work, but have no way to prove it. How can you know that you are making a difference?

Your nonprofit’s services have been “good enough” for a long time, but you know you need to make improvements to keep up. Where can you make changes to your services to improve quality without adding lots of extra work?

Your organization is working harder than ever. You are providing quality services to growing numbers of clients in need. You are dealing with funding cuts by asking staff and volunteers to do more work with fewer resources. How can you make the best use of the resources you have? How can you prove your effectiveness and make a case for more funding?

Changing River Consulting can help you answer all of these questions. Using accepted techniques in program evaluation, quality improvement, and change management, Changing River Consulting works with your nonprofit to measure program performance, identify places where improvement is needed, and take credit for the good work that you are doing.

Some of the tools we use include:

The Five Tier Program Evaluation Model. The Five Tier Model (Jacobs, 2003) can include needs assessment, monitoring and accountability, quality review and program clarification, outcomes measurement, and showing impact. This model is one of the best and most comprehensive ways to help programs measure their work. It is flexible and can be tailored to many timelines and budget options.

Systems Mapping. Evaluation can identify where improvement is needed, but doesn’t do a good job identifying ways to make those improvements. Using systems mapping techniques such as process flowcharts, Changing Rivers Consulting can work with your organization to identify leverage points to make noticeable improvements in organizational work at a minimum cost in time and money.

Change Management. It is one thing to identify needed changes, but another thing entirely to help staff and volunteers make the transition to new practices. Change management techniques can help bring people along to the next evolution of organizational work.

Contact Changing River Consulting to learn more about how we can help you help others.