Finally transferred!

March 3, 2010

After spending countless hours transferring posts from blogger to wordpress, this blog finally has all my past post on it – with pictures added to most posts. Over the next month or so I will be making more changes to the layout and look of the blog, but for now, enjoy!


Reflection & top 4 posts from 2009

February 26, 2010

Photo by SRivera

2009 has been a great year, having written 117 blog posts on a variety of topics. I know my resolution for 2010 will be to write more often and with better consistency! Here are the top 4 posts that were written in 2009 that have been the most popular.

1. Advertising on nonprofit websites?

2. Why can’t a nonprofit get its own credit card?

3. 3 reasons why you should have a twenty something on your board

4. Want to know how your nonprofit is doing financially?

Interestingly, they are not the most popular overall. Three posts I wrote in 2008 were more popular this year, with the SWOT post getting more hits than all four of the above combined:

1. Using SWOT Analysis for Strategic Planning

2. In-Kind Gifts 101: Definition, Acknowledgement & the Law

3. Nonprofit Blogging Tips from ProBlogger

Top 3 Weekly Blog Posts for Nonprofit Workers

February 26, 2010

Photo by Leo Reynolds

1. Nonprofit Fiscal Rules for the “New Normal” by Nonprofit Board Crisis

2. Hear Ye, Hear Ye – Overhead is Over by Balancing the Mission Checkbook

3. Generational Differences by Michigan Nonprofit Association Blog

Reader Question: Starting a new program and convincing foundations to fund?

February 26, 2010

Photo by tacomabibelot

I recently did a session on Programs: Developing, Managing, and Evaluating for the Emerging Nonprofit Leadership Network and I was asked a question by a participant about starting a new program. The participant was wondering how does convince a foundation to fund a new program when you have never done it before, and therefore don’t have evaluations showing it was effective?

This question surprised me because I thought most would know the answer, but I found that many at nonprofits were wondering this same thing. The answer is research. You should rarely, if ever, start a new program without research supporting your intervention. So, what if no one has ever done what you want to do – or someone has done it, but there isn’t research supporting it yet? Well, then you find research supporting components of the program.

I’ll take an easy example, say you want to start a program where 10th graders become tutors and mentors for at-risk 6th graders to help them improve academic achievement. Sure, there might not be research on that specific program, but you should definitely be able to find research on whether mentoring is effective, at what ages mentoring has been effective, what research has found to be successful interventions for academic achievement, research on causes for low achievement for at-risk youth, etc. Using this research you should be able to build a case to support the program you want to do.

So, what if you can’t find research or research does not support what you want to do? If you can’t find research to support any component of your program in any way, then it probably isn’t the best choice. If you find research but it doesn’t support your approach – then figure out why and think of ways you can address that.

Where do you find this research? Online, articles, journals, etc. Personally, I use Google Scholar when searching for articles, but you can also use local libraries to access journals and books. Also keep in mind if you find a good article that fits what you are looking for, look at the citations and who the author cited. It is more likely than not you will find a bunch more support or useful information that will help build your case!

Wondering how big of a sample size you need?

February 26, 2010

Photo by eleaf

So, you have decided to do an evaluation – or are doing some preliminary research for a proposed program. You sit down and try to figure out the details, which includes how many people should you send your survey to? If you are just doing asking a bunch of people to participate in a survey asking about why they donate, or whether they enjoyed your program, then the sample size probably isn’t as important. It is important is you want to be able to generalize your findings to the general population – or to the targeted population. So, how do you determine it? Well I could tell you the complex formula and math behind determining a sample size, but it is easier just to point you to a simple sample size calculator you can download. This link will take you to a survey course website, on the bottom left of the page you will see “Sample Size Calculator” click it and download.

Once it pops up, it might be a little confusing so here are a few tips to make it easier:

  • The first tab “Type of Analysis” you can usually leave the defaults – unless you are doing complex sampling – which you probably aren’t.
  • The second tab “Values and Settings” is most important. Make sure to enter your population size, etc.
  • The third tab “Corrections” is pretty much self-explanatory and you will probably not use it – but if you do it explains what each option means by the selection box.
  • Once you have entered everything in, then the box to the right should say a number – that is the number of people your sample should include.

*When you download it, there is a “quickhelp” folder that explains what each box means if you are confused about what to put there. Good luck!

Honor for NonprofitSOS

February 26, 2010

This blog was selected by the Daily Reviewer as one of the top 100 nonprofit blogs!

Top 3 Weekly Blog Posts for Nonprofit Workers

February 26, 2010

Photo by Leo Reynolds

1. “Evaluating Online Donation Service Providers” by Step by Step Fundraising

2. “Fundraising from Out-of-State? An Update on Registration Issues” by Kivi’s Nonprofit Communications Blog

3.”More on Charity Boards and Tough Times” by Nonprofit Law Blog

Bonus: “We overestimate the gap between nonprofit and for-profit jobs” by Penelope Trunk’s Brazen Careerist – This post is a bit older (10/30/09) but has some interesting thoughts on nonprofit vs for-profit jobs

Exploring Effective Strategies for Facilitating Evaluation Capacity Building

February 26, 2010

This AEA session was of particular interest to me. I would love to see more nonprofits investing in building their capacity with evaluation, and this session discussed ten strategies to do so:

  1. Coaching/Mentoring: building a relationship with an evaluation expert who provides individualized technical and professional support
  2. Technical Assistance: receiving help from an internal or external evaluator
  3. Technology: using online resources such as websites and/or e-learning programs to learn from and about evaluation
  4. Written Materials: reading and using written documents about evaluation processes and findings
  5. Training: attending courses, workshops, and seminars on evaluation
  6. Involvement in an Evaluation Process: participating in the design and/or implementation of an evaluation
  7. Internship: participating in a formal program that provides practical evaluation experience for novices
  8. Meetings: allocating time and space to discuss evaluation activities specifically for the purpose of learning from and about evaluation
  9. Appreciative Inquiry: using an assets-based, collaborative, narrative approach to learning about evaluation that focuses on strengths within the organization
  10. Communities of Practice: sharing evaluation experiences, practices, information, and readings among members who have common interests and needs (sometimes called learning circles)

See posts about other sessions I attended at this year’s AEA: “American Evaluation Conference Summary Post

Unique Methods in Advocacy Evaluation

February 26, 2010

This AEA session discussed common advocacy evaluation methods:

  • Stakeholder surveys or interviews – Print, telephone, or online questioning that gathers advocacy stakeholder perspectives or feedback.
  • Case studies – Detailed descriptions and analyses (often qualitative) of individual advocacy strategies and results.
  • Focus groups – Facilitated discussions with advocacy stakeholders (usually about 8-10 per group) to obtain their reactions, opinions, or ideas.
  • Media tracking – Counts of an issue’s coverage in the print, broadcast, or electronic media.
  • Media content or framing analysis – Qualitative analysis of how the media write about and frame issues of interest.
  • Participant observation – Evaluator participation in advocacy meeting or events to gain firsthand experience and data.
  • Policy tracking – Monitoring of an issue or bill’s progress in the policy processes.
  • Public polling – Interviews (usually by telephone) with a random sample of advocacy stakeholders to gather data on their knowledge, attitudes, or behaviors.

And highlighted four new methods that have been developed specifically to address advocacy evaluation’s unique challenges:

  • Bellwether methodology – Interviews conducted with “bellwethers” or influential people in public/private sectors whose positions require that they track a broad range of policy issues. Part of sample is not connected to issue of interest and sample does not have advance knowledge of interview topic. Used to assess political will as outcome, forecast likelihood of future policy proposals/changes, assess extent that advocacy messages have “broken through”, and to gauge whether an issue is on federal/state/local policy agenda and how it is positioned.
  • Policymaker ratings – Advocates (or other informed stakeholders) rate policymakers of interest on scales that assess policymakers’ support for, and influence on, the issue. Used to assess extent to which a policymaker supports an issue and whether that support is changing over time.
  • Intense period debriefs – Advocates are engaged in evaluative inquiry shortly after a policy window or intense period of action occurs. Used when advocacy efforts are experiencing high intensity levels of activity and advocates have little time to pause for data collection.
  • System mapping – A system is visually mapped, identifying the parts and relationships in that system that are expected to change and how they will change, and then identifying ways of measuring or capturing whether those changes have occurred. Used to try to achieve systems change.

Please note that the above notes are credited to the “Unique Methods in Advocacy Evaluation” by Julia Coffman and Ehren Reed.

See posts about other sessions I attended at this year’s AEA: “American Evaluation Conference Summary Post

A day in the life of a nonprofit worker

February 26, 2010

1. What is your name, organization and job title (you don’t have to give your name/organization if you don’t want to- it can be anonymous)
Martin Wera – Nonprofit Services Manager, Charities Review Council

2. What is the first thing you do when you get in the office?
Put my lunch in the fridge, check email, check my calendar, and check to see if any nonprofits have finished the Accountability Wizard (the online educational tool the Charities Review Council has for nonprofits). After that, it varies from day to day.

3. How do you spend your lunch break?
During baseball season – check the updates about the Twins. Usually though I check the MinnPost Daily Glean, Politico, and any other news updates. Often I’ll check some nonprofit blogs as well.

4. Which part of your work do you enjoy most?
One of the best things about my job is the opportunity to connect and work with a variety of nonprofits. Depending on which organizations are going through a review, every day is different. Not only is the organization different (e.g. size, issue area, etc.), but also questions that they have about the review and the Accountability Standards. I also enjoy the fact that I feel like in working with nonprofits meet our standards, I’m part of the process of helping them be more effective, healthy organizations.

5. Please finish this sentence: If someone wanted my job, they would have to…..
…be a nonprofit geek.

6. What advice or tips do you have for other nonprofit professionals in your position?
This is trite, but true – do what gives you energy. Having worked at a variety of nonprofits, this has been the clearest lesson I’ve learned. From this point, everything else falls into place.

I am looking for people to participate in this series, if you are interested, please email me –