Bernadette Sangalang on Developing or Improving Evaluation Efforts in Nonprofit Organizations

Hello, I am Bernadette Sangalang, Evaluation Director at San Francisco AIDS Foundation (SFAF), a nonprofit that aims to reduce new HIV infections through education, advocacy, and direct services. Prior to SFAF I was an evaluation officer at a large philanthropic organization. I’ve found that, to make evaluation more useful to nonprofits, it helps to start the engagement with staff using simple tools and open conversations about their work.

Hot Tip: Assess current evaluation practices. Create a chart (see below) and discuss with staff their current evaluation activities.  Ask staff to list evaluation-related activities they currently do (e.g., logic models, surveys, reporting to funders) and rate how easy or difficult it is to implement the activity against the usefulness of the information they receive from the activity. If activities fall on the left side of the chart, engage in a discussion as to why they are not useful (and why they continue to do them), and whether the activities are worth revising or maintaining.

Hot Tip: Find simple ways to make evaluation more meaningful to staff. Begin a conversation by asking what success looks like. Engage in a discussion about what their organization’s website would look like if it included a “Results” or “Our Impact” section. What does the organization want to say about the results of their work?  Having an open discussion and brainstorming about program success will likely help focus the evaluation efforts on the important information that they need and will use the most.


Lesson Learned: Don’t underestimate the power of logic models. While we know the limitations of logic models, they are a useful tool for nonprofits to articulate the relationships between activities and intended outcomes. The process alone of developing logic models with staff creates ownership and shared understanding of the program and what they hope to achieve. Also, including the organization’s overall goals in the logic model highlights important pathways linking individual program outcomes with the organization’s goals, helping staff better understand how they are contributing to the goals.

Rad Resource: Post-its! Post-its (or sticky notes) are an inexpensive, versatile resource to use in evaluation meetings. For the activity to assess evaluation practices described above, draw the chart on poster paper. Ask staff to write an evaluation activity on a Post-it, place it on the chart, and discuss their reasons for placing it in a particular quadrant. For developing logic models, write the headings on poster paper and use Post-its to fill in the logic model, shifting Post-its as needed as discussion with staff illuminates where each item belongs. Then bring the paper logic model back to the office to transcribe to an electronic version.

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 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

2 thoughts on “Bernadette Sangalang on Developing or Improving Evaluation Efforts in Nonprofit Organizations”

  1. I love the quadrant exercise as well! I’ve often had this kind of conversation with staff, but using lists of evaluation activities doesn’t have the same visual power or lend itself to further discussion the way the quadrants do. I also really like the suggestion about the ‘our results’ section of the webpage – this is a nice way of thinking about what is most important to staff about their work. Very nice suggestions.

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