Knowledge Advisory Group

Outcomes Evaluation

4 Smart Tips for Hiring an Evaluator

You know that your organization needs an evaluator…but how do you go about it? Hiring the right evaluator can save your organization a considerable amount of time, effort, and money. For many organizations with limited internal capacity, an external evaluator can often produce more accurate, useful, and credible information in a time-efficient manner, as compared to information generated by a staff member without specific evaluation expertise. Learn more

The Best Parade Ever

In 2013, I had the honor of attending the National Association of Drug Court Professionals Annual Conference in National Harbor, Maryland.

If you’re not familiar with drug courts, I encourage you to learn about them. They provide an innovative and intensive approach blending clinical treatment with criminal justice for substance-abusing offenders.

Program evaluation studies, consistently show that these programs create better outcomes, such as decreased recidivism, and greater cost-effectiveness, than traditional criminal justice approaches.

As a researcher who sometimes works with drug court programs, I’ve reviewed the studies carefully and the quantitative evidence is largely convincing. Drug courts… Learn more

Can Program Evaluation Improve Your Fundraising Success? Yes It Can!

In the nearly twenty years that I’ve been an evaluator, there’s one reason I hear over and over again for why some nonprofits (and other organizations) shy away from program evaluation:

“Oh, we don’t need to do an evaluation. We know we’re doing great things!”

My reply is always the same:

“I’m sure you are doing lots of great things…but can you prove it? And do you know what you need to do to make more great things happen?”

One of the benefits of conducting an evaluation is the positive impact it can have on fundraising success. An evaluation… Learn more

Program Evaluation Terminology 101

When an organization or nonprofit begins participating in an evaluation, some of the vocabulary can be unclear to staff who are newcomers to the process. Understanding evaluation terminology can help you gain a better grasp of the evaluation process, so we’ve put together a list of some of the most important terms and definitions to help you along the way.


  • Logic Model visual representation of the most critical elements of a program’s operation and expected outcomes, which identifies critical areas for evaluation
  • Evaluation systematic collection of information about the activities, characteristics, and outcomes of a program in order to… Learn more

Program Evaluation: A Breakdown

When people think of program evaluation, they often visualize undesirable symbols of judgment – things like grades, scores, and the SATs. However, evaluation doesn’t need to feel negative.

New approaches in evaluation have begun to facilitate positive responses and potentially powerful effects on programs.

Determining exactly what is involved in an evaluation can change based on the kind of programs being evaluated.

However, there are several stages any evaluation must work through.

1. Identifying Measures of Success Clarifying the goals of the program and identifying how to measure its success

2. Evaluation Design Designing the research and creating specific,… Learn more

What if the news is bad?

As an evaluator, I’m often faced with the following question.

“I want to be able to demonstrate my results because I think we’re doing great things, but…what if the news is bad?”

Let’s imagine, for instance, that children in elementary school don’t receive grades for reading. When your daughter, who is a bright, generous, fun-loving child, begins her first day of middle school, you receive a phone call from the principal’s office. “Mrs. Smith, we’ve discovered that your child is unable to read.”

Let’s analyze that scenario for the moment with a few questions:

  1. Is this information that you feel… Learn more

A Brief, Non-Political Reflection on the Komen/Planned Parenthood Situation

I don’t plan to use this blog as a political forum, so fear not – this post has nothing to do with my personal opinions on the missions of the Susan G. Komen Foundation and Planned Parenthood organizations. In addition, I admittedly haven’t read every word written on this subject so I’m speaking a bit off the cuff.

Having said that, as a professional evaluator, I did have a fairly immediate reaction to recent news reports of the Komen Foundation’s decision (and subsequent about-face) to cut funding to Planned Parenthood.

As I watched article after article pop up in the… Learn more

Measuring the Impact of Your Organization: Why Do It?

In recent years, nonprofit organizations have been encouraged to embrace a new mindset. This groundswell of change invokes terms such as “performance outcomes” and “results measurement,” but focuses on one primary concept: accountability. As funding becomes increasingly competitive, the demands of foundations, government agencies, and benefactors have shifted accordingly. Specifically, the bar is being raised in the service sector, following trends in the corporate environment, for organizations to demonstrate their impacts in clear and meaningful ways.

We know that impact can take many forms: helping others create financial wealth, providing healthy meals that give the gift of better health,… Learn more

Evaluation Can Be Fun? Yes it Can!

People who know me well have heard me say many times that I see evaluation as part science and part art. Armed with markers, flip charts and their imaginations, students in my Outcomes Evaluation class (hosted by Nonprofit Learning Point) discover their preconceived notions about evaluation, envision how it can help to achieve goals, and break through barriers that may be holding them back.

Here’s a little something we created in class last week:

How Can Measurement & Evaluation Help My Organization?

Someone remarked to me the other day, “Oh, I think measurement is great; it helps a lot of companies figure out what they are doing well and not so well and helps them plan, but I’m not sure I understand how it can help us.” I thought about that comment and realized that people in many organizations probably feel the same way. They’ve heard of other organizations’ success with measurement initiatives, but they just aren’t sure how it can help them be successful, too. From my experience, measurement and evaluation can help every type of organization. Consider the following examples:… Learn more

“Comprehensive data allowed management changes to be made more rapidly, leading to a leaner and more effective organization.” ~ American Red Cross, Richmond Chapter

“They were able to determine a ROI figure to help define the value proposition of our program.” ~ Virginia Economic Development Partnership

“The assessment allowed me to deliver a monumental, sea-change, amount of information to the organization with data to back me up.” ~ American Red Cross, Richmond Chapter

“Trina’s interviewing technique is a more effective way to uncover staff issues and ineffective procedures.” ~ Senior Connections, Area Agency on Aging

"The third party review added credibility.” ~ Virginia Economic Development Partnership

“The project more than paid for itself in the short-term.” ~ American Red Cross, Richmond Chapter

“I was spending 2-4 hours per week dealing with staff issues that have now been removed.” ~ Senior Connections, Area Agency on Aging

“We never received a report better than this one.” ~ Virginia Economic Development Partnership

"The Knowledge Advisory Group exceeded our expectations. They provided a solid grasp on what we achieved, along with additional framework for designing and measuring future programs."    ~Virginia Community Capital

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