NPF TIG Week: Building an Evaluation Ecosystem by Kellie Chavez-Greene and Steve Mumford

Hi there!  We are Kellie Chavez-Greene from the Greater New Orleans Foundation (GNOF), and Prof. Steve Mumford of the University of New Orleans.  We began collaborating while forming a regional AEA affiliate based in New Orleans, the Gulf Coast Evaluation Network (GCEval).  In this blog, we will discuss how GNOF supported the affiliate through a critical stage of its early development towards building a sustainable and equitable evaluation ecosystem in our area.

In summer 2018, 30 evaluation practitioners from across the Gulf Coast established a local affiliate of AEA that would provide networking, professional development, and advocacy for evaluation in our region, promoting both evaluation supply and demand.  Before transitioning to a dues-paying membership model, GCEval needed to provide value to the community worthy of payment.

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That’s where GNOF stepped in.  The foundation’s Nonprofit Leadership and Effectiveness (NLE) program is the go-to-source for nonprofit capacity building in the region. They immediately recognized the importance of evaluation to our community, and supported GCEval by:

  • Providing free meeting space for monthly meetings
  • Hosting a convening emphasizing the importance of data to nonprofits, and inviting GCEval to pitch its services
  • Speaking on a panel at an early (public) association meeting to attract interest
  • Contracting with GCEval to provide an Evaluation Academy Series of workshops and coaching to regional nonprofits
  • Joining as a founding organizational member

The contract arrangement provided seed money for incorporating GCEval as a nonprofit, and marketed the association to a new set of organizations, several of which joined.  GCEval’s founding Steering Committee organized and facilitated the series in cooperation with GNOF, donating portions of their time to demonstrate commitment.  The other activities required little cost beyond staff time, but were instrumental in shepherding GCEval through a tenuous start-up phase. 

Lessons Learned:

GCEval now has more than 50 paying members, and almost 100 (and growing) contacts throughout the region.  Membership fees provide sufficient revenues to cover operating costs, as long as they are maintained.  The affiliate has become more stable and professional – indeed, it benefitted from the sort of nonprofit capacity-building GNOF is known for! 

At GCEval, we hope to return the favor and support regional nonprofits through the evaluation process.  Upcoming initiatives, jointly planned with GNOF, include:

  • Sharing outcomes from the Academy Series with the public and particularly funders, to carry evaluation demand “upstream”
  • Coordinating a regional survey of nonprofit capacity needs, including in evaluation, to better make the case for programs and resources
  • Connecting nonprofits to a list of skilled consultants, and when evaluation budgets are minimal or non-existent, to graduate students conducting capstone research
  • Encouraging and training nonprofits in writing evaluation into their grant proposals and job descriptions, and preparing evaluation RFPs for dissemination

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Nonprofits and Foundations Topical Interest Group (NPFTIG) Week. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from our NPFTIG 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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