The biweekly ‘So What?’ guide highlights advice, events, and tips — mostly from the advocacy and evaluation worlds, selected by the Aspen Planning and Evaluation Program.
Four Stars! But What Do They Mean?
The Aspen Institute (APEP’s beloved institutional home) is quite pleased that we have received “the coveted 4-star rating from Charity Navigator” placing us among the three percent of charities that have achieved this level for eight straight years. Four out of five (stars) is indeed Most Outstanding, even better than someone hitting 67 percent of his shots from the floor (we’re looking at you, Donte DiVincenzo). That’s nice. Even nicer is that Charity Navigator has begun publishing information from GuideStar, Classy, and GlobalGiving about nonprofits’ “impact.” But it’s merely “nice” for now. Charity Navigator says that the impact-related information does not affect a charity’s rating — and the information itself is relatively limited. Nonetheless, we salute the effort to give nonprofits, donors, and us evaluation nerds insights into what impact might mean and how it might be measured as part of a complete picture of a nonprofit’s effectiveness, accountability, and transparency.
Building Capacity to Coach Capacity Building
As all of us toiling in the challenging, rewarding, and competitive field of evaluation know, evaluators are no longer just expected to apply research skills to a question about impact. Our tool belts must be chock full of expertise in strategic planning, communications, theoretical frameworks, research, facilitation, and capacity-building, among other things. (We know this from our own experience and because evaluation guru Julia Coffman told us so). For those of us still working to sharpen some of our tools, a welcome resource is a new Center for Evaluation Innovation brief by Betsy Baum Block on how to use coaching. One tip: Ask short, dumb questions. Really? Really. OK then! We’re on it, Coach!
Serious About Public Opinion?
Our last edition took a gently skeptical swipe at Civiqs. So whom do we like in the world of public opinion research? We are fans of the Pew Research Center (and even hoping that the AEA in its wisdom invites us to co-present some work of mutual interest next Fall in beautiful Cleveland). The Center is sometimes described as “the gold standard” in opinion research. They aren’t alone in seeking that reputation: NORC makes its own claims for consistent excellence — and we like the compelling way it presents public opinion and other research in its sleek digital annual report.