Leading the Evaluation Agenda
To see ACCA’s The Exchange, where this article is featured, click here.
The Ontario Nonprofit Network recently published Learning Together: Five Important Discussion Questions to Make Evaluation Useful in which they ask five questions:
This guide helps nonprofits articulate more clearly the purposes and processes of an evaluation, regardless of the size, mission, or location of the organization. It’s a conversation starter and a means to open a dialogue with your stakeholders in a subject area that can be complex and difficult.
The core of the guide revolves around five questions that can be used when talking with funders and other stakeholders. The goal is to find simple, yet powerful, ways to make evaluation more meaningful.
The outcomes and impacts of projects are the subject of much discussion in the non-profit sector. Organizations want to achieve the best possible results for their target groups and, at the same time, funders are calling for more evidence about the benefits yielded by the projects they have supported.
Nonprofits aim to achieve the best possible results through their work. This involves monitoring each phase of a project in order to ensure progress toward the intended objectives. However, many organizations have neither the expertise nor the instruments needed to systematically integrate impact orientation into their work. In a context of limited resources, impact orientation is regarded by many organizations as a desirable but difficult or “unrealistic” task.
PHINEO offers step-by-step explanations and practical examples in their free, online publication: Social Impact Navigator: The Practical Guide for Organizations Targeting Better Results.
If diversity is so high profile, and everyone knows it’s a social and economic necessity, why is it not uncommon to hear that nothing has changed in the past 30 years? Why have respondents to AP’s diversity survey, under the liberating cover of anonymity, said that in their organisation: “There is a tick box mentality rather than an enthusiasm for diversity. It is not intrinsic to our work; it is still being ‘added on’.” Or: “It is a constant struggle for companies with a diverse agenda to get funding, venues, or recognition.”
DEBRA CHANDLER, Chandler Consulting |
Job security? Hah! Human interaction, challenge, intellectual exercise, helping people and industry? Yah! Self-reliance and flexibility – most of the time. Steady contracts? Maybe. This is arts consulting.
Many of us fell into consulting, after long periods of employment that was good, wonderful or miserable. But, we fell into it knowing what we knew, and willing to fly by the seat of our pants a bit to learn more, and to create as much work as we could handle.
And just who are we as consultants?
We are all highly individual, but we do have a few things in common. By and large, we are
- Energetic “Do-ers”
- Solution oriented
In addition, like the generally higher-paid Management Consultants in the corporate world, we have the following skills:
- Logical reasoning
- Ability to work well with others
So – we certainly don’t run around like chickens, with or without our heads cut off. And we are certainly good for more than one meal, although we often have to feed 5-10 people at once with our ideas.
We have to manage current projects and wrap up past projects while we are constantly scratching the yard for the next project. Sometimes I feel like I am running in headless circles, because my head has exploded. There are weeks when it is just very hard to continue to think clearly about 4-5 clients at once, or, dare I say it, to care about all 4-5 of them, at once.
Those are the Chicken weeks. Stuffed, dressed and plentiful. Free run, butter-infused or complete wild turkeys, the work is great and we take all we can get.
Then come the Feather weeks, when you long for that frantic Chicken-week pace as the empty hours tick by, and your ideas, calls, and research turn up no work, or work that will start… in a month.
Using the Bones to Make Soup – Drown those Feathers!
When you have bills to pay, it is hard to take advantage of the “down” time to learn something new online or in person, take someone out for coffee or lunch, or attend an event where networking can be done. But we do it, and we must do it.
As self-employed entrepreneurs, we are resourceful enough to take the chicken bones, add a few vegetables and make Soup!
These down times are excellent for getting in touch with ACCA colleagues and friends. Having a chat about what’s new for them, what you learned in the last contract, and what you see coming down the pipeline that will require new knowledge and models.
Part of our curious, creative natures is the love of learning, and Professional Development has to be pretty well constant. The minute we rest on laurels, or follow formula, we are bound to stumble. Jane Marsland makes a practice of reading a book about something completely unknown to her. I listen to music totally new to me, and read as well.
What do YOU do in your Feather weeks? Let’s start a Chicken and Feathers dialogue.
If the Feather times persist, take them and stuff a pillow – you deserve the rest! OR take a few and make a dancing hat!
Some consultants have what we call “anchor gigs,” working a regular part-time contract for one particular organization or company. These are hugely beneficial, and take off the financial stress. These are not necessarily factory chicken jobs – I have been incredibly fortunate to have entrepreneurial, community-oriented anchor gigs that stretched my thinking and brought me into contact with amazing people and places. [Looking for another one right now, actually!]
Do YOU have an anchor gig? Would you like one? OR do you feel they are restrictive?
One thing is for certain, we are most fortunate to have a networking and learning group like ACCA.
Let’s really use it as a hub for partnering, learning and staving off those feathers!
Job description for Consultant, Learning Design (Boston)
Client & Consumer Services | Boston, MA, United States
“The nonprofit sector is large and robust, and our staff and volunteer leadership play a critical role in Canadian communities,” say the authors of An Overview and Trend Analysis for Volunteer Board of Directors of Community Organizations in Canada, published by the Ontario Nonprofit Network.
They continue: “However, these are times of change. The context and circumstances within which the sector does its work are changing… Is there a nonprofit that has not been affected? How can local organizations keep up? How do volunteer board members know where to start?”
Here are some of their findings:
The growing income inequality means those nonprofits “working to build social cohesion in our communities are finding our jobs increasingly difficult as more people find themselves at the margins of society.”
Government investment is declining or stagnant year on year; and, while the profile of those who donate is changing, charitable giving is stagnating.
While increases in membership fees and fees-for-service account for some increase to overall earned revenue, new social enterprises help nonprofits as they search for ways to earn revenues to fund their missions. But be forewarned, the Canada Revenue Agency has a narrow definition of related business,
Given all the challenges, nonprofits are increasingly seeking out compatible organizations to support them with governance and administrative support, sometimes referred to as shared platforms.
It’s a new world. Be brave.
The Minister of Canadian Heritage announced a series of changes related to grants and contribution management. These will speed up the turnaround on applications and payments. They will also make multi-year grants more frequent.
“We are pleased with these improved service standards. Faster turnaround and predictable multi-year funding will allow better planning and will encourage innovation by arts organizations.” —Frédéric Julien, Director of Research and Development at the Canadian Arts Presenting Association (CAPACOA) and Co-Chair of the Canadian Arts Coalition
The Programming Committee is currently waiting for answers regarding funding for projects that we could undertake for the membership of ACCA. In the meantime, we have a suggestion, but we need your feedback.
There are many technical tools out there which can make things easier in working with our clients: we need to know which are being used by the membership, and how they are being used.
Many of us already have technical tools that we use regularly with clients, but there are other members that are not as tech savvy.
We are asking you to go have a look at the list linked below and see what is there (and this is by no means an exhaustive list). Is there one, or a number of these that you would be interested in learning more about, to add to your “tech stack”, and would you be interested in taking part in a workshop or workshops that we could set up with the creators of these programmes?
In order to give us an idea, please send your comments to email@example.com and the programming committee will take them to heart and figure out the best way to get this information to you.
We hope that you are all well and thriving, as we finally begin to return to a cultural world that is coming back to life slowly.