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Nonprofit Program Evaluation: Expert Insights for Fundraising Professionals 

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By Hannah Durbin

How to build a strong nonprofit program

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Published May 23, 2022 Reading Time: 4 minutes

To accurately evaluate your nonprofit’s performance, it can be helpful to analyze your work from a programmatic level. A nonprofit program is a specific initiative that addresses a social or environmental problem, relies on dedicated resources and budget, and has a strategy to achieve distinct goals.

Get Expert Advice on Your Nonprofit Programs

Every year, Classy offers a unique opportunity for nonprofits of all sizes and sectors to evaluate their programs through the Classy Awards submission process. Organizations are asked to provide an overview of their program, as well as:

  • State the problem they’re addressing
  • Explain how they plan to solve it
  • Break down their innovative approach
  • Evaluate their organizational effectiveness
Classy Awards winner quote

Before announcing our 2022 Classy Awards Winners on June 14, we took the time to interview a member of Classy’s honorary Leadership Council. This diverse board of social sector leaders and executives is responsible for collectively determining the annual Winners from our list of top 50 Finalists.

Hear the exclusive advice Tanya Ramos shared with us about measuring your nonprofit’s performance, and learn how you can apply her expert insights to ensure your nonprofit programs are reaching their greatest potential.

Meet Tanya Ramos, Honorary Member of the 2022 Classy Awards Leadership Council

Tanya Ramos headshotTanya Ramos, President of the Latin GRAMMY Cultural Foundation (LGCF), has devoted the past two decades of her career to improving educational opportunities and life outcomes for youth in the most under-resourced communities.

As the President of the organization, Tanya is responsible for furthering international awareness and appreciation of the significant contributions of Latin music and its makers. In this role, she also leads the Foundation’s ongoing programs, which provide educational access, equity, and success to music students from around the globe.

Prior to her current role, Tanya served as CEO at Pencils of Promise for three years. In combination with the expertise she has gained at the LGCF, her experience launching, building, and growing nonprofit programs has made a massive impact on the social sector at large.

How to Effectively Evaluate Your Nonprofit Programs to Fuel Greater Impact

We sat down with Tanya to hear more about her process for measuring impact and identifying areas of opportunity for greater programmatic success. Hear what she had to say, and gain expert insights into the ways your organization can apply these best practices to help you scale.

Q: As president of the Latin GRAMMY Cultural Foundation, how would you define a successful nonprofit program?

A: I believe a successful nonprofit program meets its constituents where they’re at. I recognize that as nonprofit organizations, we identify a problem we are looking to solve, create our theory of change, and then take action to make an impact in the lives of those we are hoping to serve.

While all of this is true, a successful program recognizes the challenges faced by the group they are looking to serve and ensures that their services align with that need and the obstacles facing that community.

I’m also a firm believer that measuring impact is critical to ensuring a program is successful. There should be a thoughtful process to identify metrics, collect data, and synthesize that data to make informed decisions.

Q: Could you tell me a little more about the data you’ve found to be most useful in measuring the success of a particular program?

A: It’s important that the metrics identified really speak to the quality and efficacy of the program. I think identifying metrics that truly address your proposed theory of change is a great first step.

I also think it’s critical to collect both quantitative and qualitative data and track that data over time to ensure you’re delivering on your desired results.

Q: In addition to the steps you’ve laid out here, what’s your team’s process for evaluating the impact of the Foundation’s programs?

A: We are diligent about frequent data collection and utilize focus groups to gather substantive qualitative data. Our team has also identified external evaluators to take a look at our programs from an unbiased perspective and provide an honest account of our progress to our goals.

Q: You mentioned the importance of frequent data collection. How often should nonprofits be conducting data collection and program evaluation within their own organizations?

A: I believe nonprofits should consider program assessment on a quarterly basis. That provides the level of frequency necessary to ensure their programs are effective.

It also provides an opportunity to pivot in real time so that the constituents of your programs receive the intended support. Plus, that frequency ensures your nonprofit is making good on its commitment to improving the lives of the folks you serve.

Q: This has all been incredibly helpful, Tanya. Do you have any final words of advice for nonprofits looking to expand their programs and strengthen their impact?

A: It’s crucial to get buy-in from those you are looking to serve. I also believe it’s crucial to identify the appropriate level of resources, both internal and external, to deliver on your goals. You’re off to an incredible start if you have those in place.

Assess Your Program Effectiveness to Move the Needle on Your Mission

Gain a better understanding of how you’re delivering on your mission with regular program evaluations. Without them, it can be challenging to identify growth opportunities for your program and track progress toward your goals.

Posted in Fundraising

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