APC Week: Edmina Bradshaw on Evaluating the Advocacy Efforts of Non-Profits – After the Fact….

My name is Dr. Edmina Bradshaw, Principal Consultant of Edmina Bradshaw LLC.  I work with a small group of professionals on program planning and evaluation for national and local nonprofit organizations, mostly in the aging field.  I also support organizations in implementing self-directed volunteer teams(sdvnetwork.com) across the country.

I find that while the need for evaluation has finally gained traction with non-profits in general, evaluation planning is lagging way behind. In the past three years I have been called in to evaluate advocacy efforts in particular only to find there is no advocacy plan in place, outcomes are defined badly (or not at all) and “evidence” presented is at best anecdotal.  What can be done to help in such situations?

Hot Tips:

Help the organization retrace its steps through a summative evaluation process – to arrive at a collection of measurements and judgments that would allow conclusions to be drawn about outcomes and impacts of their advocacy program.

Lessons Learned:

  • Use a basic logic model to articulate the theory of change. Helps clarify short, medium and longest-term goals …. and how to get there.
  • Keep it simple – To begin the process, I use a checklist of the logic model elements: Inputs, Output (Activities, Participation), Outcomes (Short, Medium & Long-term), Assumptions and External Factors.  Organizations not used to theory of change find it less intimidating to tackle these separately at first – especially as different people may be involved in different stages of their program.
  • If the organization decides to continue its advocacy efforts – as is usually the case – use the results of the summative process as part of the baseline for a new formative evaluation process.


  • After they see the final product of a succinctly articulated theory of change, our clients are thrilled and use it in reports, funding requests, etc. It is also a huge motivator to plan more effectively for the next iteration of their advocacy efforts.

Rad Resources:

  • Marcia Egbert and Susan Hoechstetter: “Evaluating Nonprofit Advocacy Simply: An Oxymoron?”  Harvard Family Research Project: Volume XIII, Number 1&2, Spring 2007

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Advocacy and Policy Change (APC) TIG Week with our colleagues in the APC Topical Interest Group. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from our APC TIG members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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