Promises and pitfalls: nonprofit program evaluation in a collaborative context

Program evaluation is an important topic for nonprofit organizations since a range of nonprofit stakeholders expect to see organizations progress in achieving their mission and social purpose. Nonprofits experience a variety of challenges evaluating the impact of their programs, including lack of evaluation knowledge, resources, time, personnel, and evaluation training. The purpose of this study is to determine what challenges and barriers nonprofit organizations experience when evaluating their programs within a collaborative context. Specifically, this study aims to gather experiences from the growing number of nonprofit organizations that belong to nonprofit collectives and that are engaged in collaborative work and collective impact initiatives. In this exploratory case study, I conducted in-depth interviews with nonprofit practitioners whose organizations belong to a Northern California nonprofit collective. The interviews provided rich and grounded detail on the array of challenges that nonprofits experience evaluating the performance of both individual and collaborative programs. These challenges include limitations in organizational capacity to conduct program evaluation, limitations in evaluation skill, funding barriers, and coordination challenges. The findings also indicate that all stakeholders, including nonprofit practitioners, funders, and collective leaders, may benefit from engaging in dialogue to collaboratively reduce program evaluation challenges, barriers, redundancies, and inefficiencies.

Thesis (M.P.P.A., Public Policy and Administration)--California State University, Sacramento, 2020.