Making the Argument for Leadership Development

Linda Wood, Senior Director of the Haas Leadership Initiative at the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund, recently wrote an interesting post on The CEP Blog of the Center for Effective Philanthropy, "The Leadership Development Disconnect." Working both in the field of leadership development and on program evaluation, I was encouraged to see these important issues highlighted. Much of my experience is consistent with the author’s. In the post, Wood states: "…not enough funders are investing in strengthening the leadership of their grantees. And … [Read more...]

Evaluating to Increase Impact

Photo by Jori Ketten

Evaluation appeals to my intense curiosity to figure out how and why things work and don’t work. Many high performing organizations that I have come to know generally use a combination of formal and informal evaluation to build learning loops towards increasing strategic success. That is, they hire experts to increase internal knowledge and staff capabilities and to work with them on particularly complex inquiries, where it is critical to understand the elements on which a program will fail or succeed. And, they look to their staffs to … [Read more...]

The Limits of Nonprofit Impact – HBS Working Paper

Nonprofits are under growing pressure to demonstrate their impact to funders as well as taxpayers. This working paper argues that while performance measurement is a helpful management tool, it is not always appropriate to focus on impacts depending on the scale and scope of an organization's activities and theory of change. Though the examples focus on poverty alleviation, the discussion and questions are highly relevant for all nonprofits. The Limits of Nonprofit Impact - HBS Working Paper. … [Read more...]

Social Outcomes: Lifting Sights, Changing Norms

The air is filled with conversation about measurement and metrics and proof for nonprofit activities and investments. Mario Morino points out the heavy emphasis on long-term scientific study in these discussions, and argues for the importance of an integrated, day-to-day performance management approach. His thoughts are in line with the approach we teach in "Building Evaluation Capacity." A note from other writing by Venture Philanthropy Partners: they believe a proper performance management system can take three years to develop and … [Read more...]

Nonprofits, Innovation, and Performance Measurement: Separating Fact from Fiction

A recent study from Johns Hopkins Center for Civil Society Studies on constraints on innovation in the NP sector (incl. arts specifically). Limited resources cited as constraint on both innovation itself and the ability to perform rigorous program evaluation in service of identifying innovative programs. Folk wisdom of correlation between organization size and innovation is also challenged: "Innovative activity was particularly pronounced among the larger organizations, challenging the common assumption that organizations become less … [Read more...]