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*This is the fourth in a series of evaluation focused blog posts by our colleague and team member, Amy Bonn of The Finch Network. If you missed the first posts, don’t miss reading What’s In Your Evaluation ToolboxGathering Evaluation Data, or Evaluating What Makes Your Organization Special.


My mom had a shelf of cookbooks in her kitchen with notations on the pages of favorite family recipes. She wrote about how she would change the recipe the next time she made it, who liked it, who wasn’t complimentary of the meal, and whether it was worth making again. Her approach to cooking is similar to how nonprofit can stock up on their evaluation tools. Read through evaluation material and websites, try some different activities out, get feedback on what you made and revise your programs accordingly.

6 Evaluation Resources to Have On Hand

Here are six of my favorite sites to help organizations think about how to integrate evaluation activities into their work.

1. A great starting point to orienting you and your nonprofit to evaluation activities is Colorado Nonprofit Association’s Evaluation: A Tool Kit to Support Principles and Practices for Nonprofit Excellence in Colorado:  Provides a great overview to evaluation work, terminology as well as how evaluation work can inform program performance.


2. Rainbow FrameworkBetterEvaluation: This is your one-stop shop to identify what evaluation activities suit your organization. The site includes decision-making questions, templates and best practices for each type of activity.

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This is the third in our series of posts about evaluation and how you are can be evaluating your success to increase your grant seeking success and reporting on your grant-funded work. If you missed the first posts, don’t miss reading What’s In Your Evaluation Toolbox and Gathering Evaluation Data.


One of the great joys of doing evaluation work with nonprofits is having an opportunity to let staff, volunteers, and board members know what people of think of them. It’s often a wonderful time to let people who are very humble, who do amazing work with little positive feedback know the impact they are having on their clients and their community. Here are four different ways to help tell your organization’s story through evaluation data.

4 Questions to Help Determine What Makes Your Organization Special


1. What are your demographics and how does your organization stand out? I find Data USA ( to be a great tool when developing a needs statement or a narrative about the community that an organization serves. Data USA uses census data to create a city/county/state profiles. There is also a comparison option so that you can do a compare and contrast search to see how you fare in relation to your neighboring county/state demographic/national demographic data. The infographics make the site user-friendly and the data is clear, concise and can be readily used for grants and other reports.

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09 Feb 2018

Gathering Evaluation Data

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In case you missed the first post in our month of evaluation focused blog posts, you can catch up on What’s in your Evaluation Toolbox.


When done well, evaluation data tells the story of your organization. It informs clients and other key stakeholders of your accomplishment, your goals and how you are making meaningful change with your work. I hear a lot of non-profit practitioners say “how can you measure social change” or “our work can’t be summarized by an outcome model” and while it’s true that it can be challenging to put metrics on difficult social issues such as prevention services and long-term care, it can and should be done. If you have the appropriate tools in place you can take many of the anecdotal stories of change that you hear in your lobby, a board meeting, or after an effective program you’ve run and use this information for evaluation activities.

You’ll first want to figure out how to frame your evaluation instruments and I suggest using the following questions to begin generating the evaluation tools to collect your data:

  • What do we want to learn from our evaluation work?
  • How can this inform our decision-making process?
  • What do we want to learn from key stakeholders (clients, alumni, funders, collaborators)? What questions do we want to pose to them?
  • Do any of our current, or potential, funders have evaluation requirements that we need to consider as we develop an evaluation plan?

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03 Feb 2018

What’s in Your Evaluation Toolbox?

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*Note from Diane: When I am presenting webinars or in-person workshops, the resounding answer to the question I always ask “What is the part of the application you are most stressed about or you think could be improved the most?” is always EVALUATION! So in response to that overwhelming response, we are doing a full month of evaluation focused blog posts from colleague Amy Bonn. 


I live in an area where winter weather can be fickle and you can be stranded without power so it’s best to be prepared with a box of emergency supplies. Our box contains emergency essentials like bottled water, batteries and candles but it also has things that are important to our family: a pack of Uno cards, hot chocolate and a bottle of Dinosaur Barbecue’s Wango Tango Sauce (when the power goes off our neighborhood turns the barbecues on and we have some epic meals). If an evaluator was called in to assess the entirety of our box, they’d probably get a good sense as to who our family was and how we interacted with each other. I think they’d say something like “This family unit of four is prepared to take care of themselves and their array of animals for at least three days. From the contents of the box, it appears they are engaged in communal meals that while not nutritionally balanced, will suffice. The addition of games and other distractions indicate an ability to survive a stressful time.”

Setting up an evaluation plan (evaluation toolbox) for your organization is very similar to determining what goes into your emergency box. What is essential to your organization, what makes you special and what information/technical assistance do you need to complete your box. Before you fill up your evaluation toolbox, there are three questions you and your staff will want to consider.

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