Archive for February, 2011

Organizational Assessment Tools – ARNOVA Discussion

Posted on February 4, 2011. Filed under: Customer Service, Fundraising, Leadership, Non-profits, Volunteer |

This is an interesting discussion about Organizational Assessment Tools from the ARNOVA (non-profit researchers) listserv.

The first commenter is Jeff Jackson from the Packard Foundation:

Thanks Beth for you question on organizational assessments, Hildy for raising the issue on assessment effectiveness and Gregrie for raising the related issue on leadership engagement with assessments. I’d like to add to the mix my curiosity about whether there is a difference in effectiveness and/or engagement between self-assessments vs consultant-facilitated assessments (referenced by Hildy). I know there are pros/cons to both approaches and there are hybrid approaches (such as a self-assessment followed by a consultant intervention). I’m also curious about the difference in effectiveness/engagement with one time assessments vs regular (annual) assessments.

On our Packard Foundation OE wiki (see the Organizational and Network Assessment page in the link in my footer), we’ve listed a number of resources and models of assessments (yet leave it to our grantee partners to determine which approach is best for what they need). We include a link to the Funders Guide to Organizational Assessment (Fieldstone Alliance and GEO) that explains when and how to use various tools. We’ve collected pretty powerful stories on results (short and long term) of organizational assessments (albeit a small sample) and very shortly we’ll be posting some related data/stories on our wiki for practitioners/researchers to comment on (see the page on Goldmine Research Project).

Our wiki also has a link to a self-assessmet tool used annually by about 400 community-based grantee partners of the Global Fund for Children and the MTV Staying Alive Foundation (a slightly revised version). The organizations use the tool to self-assess their organization’s strengths and learning curves when it comes to 7 areas of organizational capacity. Use of the tool is still relatively new (three years with GFC and just starting with SAF), but input on usefulness has been generally positive. One of the strongest messages is that self-assessment in itself is building knowledge and capacity about building organizational capacity. The leadership engagement question is addressed since the tool is completed minimally by the ED and ideally with board, staff and client stakeholders. Both GFC and SAF make it clear in the instructions, that the assessment is meant to be an action-learning tool for the grantee partners, more than an evaluative tool for the funders.

I hope this adds some food for thought.


Interested in nonprofit organizational and network effectiveness? Check out:

Jeff Jackson
Organizational Effectiveness Program Consultant The David and Lucile Packard Foundation 300 Second Street, Los Altos, CA 94022 510.628-0800 ________________________________________
From: NonProfit and Voluntary Action Discussion Group [ARNOVA-L@LISTSERV.IUPUI.EDU] On Behalf Of Gregrie Merkel [Gregrie.Merkel@UWCNM.ORG]
Sent: Thursday, February 03, 2011 1:27 PM
Subject: Re: Organizational Assessment tool

Hildy, You are not alone. We could dig deeper to come up with the same result. Every piece of information and all authorities may point to needing immediate change, but unless the CEO is directly motivated, the board will not see it as anything to address. It isn’t a need for money, it’s a need to listen. You know, if it isn’t broken-don’t fix it; if I don’t have to do it I won’t. This occurs with the most passionate defenders of their cause. I hear specifics and generalities every day internally and externally regarding what needs to come into play to succeed. My reference comes from discussions with others in research at many small and national nonprofits. As long as the organization is not bankrupt or void of volunteers, they will not make sweeping change or possibly any change at all. At times the comfort level has to be pushed to make a difference. Gregrie

Gregrie Merkel / Research / United Way of Central New Mexico
505 247 3671 xt 350 /

From: NonProfit and Voluntary Action Discussion Group [mailto:ARNOVA-L@LISTSERV.IUPUI.EDU] On Behalf Of Hildy Gottlieb
Sent: Thursday, February 03, 2011 1:39 PM
Subject: Re: Organizational Assessment tool

On 2/3/2011 10:27 AM, Beth Bagwell wrote:
Dear ARNOVAns,
I am currently looking for information regarding assessment tools for evaluating the overall performance of nonprofits. This will be used as an entry point for providing guidance to the nonprofit sector regarding strategic planning, etc. I’ve found some information on the website, but wanted to know of other tools that were recognized and user friendly.
Thank you,
Beth Bagwell

Beth’s question raises another question for me – one that has tugged at the back of my mind for a while. And that is the effectiveness of organizational assessments.

In my own experience, I have seen countless assessments, done by outside organizations who are well acclaimed for their methodologies. And from those assessments, I have pretty consistently seen several results, in no particular order:
• Nothing changes… and/or
• Plans are made to address issues raised in the assessment, but little is done to address the larger systemic issues at the heart of the symptoms, and symptoms soon re-occur (if any action is taken on the plans at all)… and/or • Organizational leaders feel no ownership of the assessment, finding themselves in the role of interviewees rather than the ones actually assessing the org themselves – or even determining what is important to assess. (Having been told they don’t know what to assess, they believe that and default to, “Well I guess we need an outsider…”) All assessment calculations are done by the outside entity performing the assessment, the final result of which is then presented to organizational leaders. Those leaders then determine which areas they agree with/ disagree with. Virtually none of what they read is surprising to them, but they don’t feel any ownership of the assessment because they neither designed nor executed it… and/or • Even assessments that are fully acted upon do not make a significant difference in the impact the organization has in the community, as assessments tend to measure organizational strength against internally-focused management checklists rather than answering the externally-focused question, “What difference does the organization want to make in the community, and what does it need to accomplish that?” …

Is this just my experience? Is there research into the extent to which (and/or what kind of) organizational assessment actually a) creates meaningful organizational change and b) increases the impact organizations have in their communities (the supposed goal of building strong orgs in the first place)?

Thanks for any observations any of you can share.


Hildy Gottlieb
Creating the Future
Making Visionary Community Change Practical
Twitter: @HildyGottlieb
Skype: HildyGottlieb

Complete instructions on managing subscriptions to ARNOVA-L, reviewing the archive of postings, and other useful information can be accessed from the link at the top right of the webpage at Complete instructions on managing subscriptions to ARNOVA-L, reviewing the archive of postings, and other useful information can be accessed from the link at the top right of the webpage at

Complete instructions on managing subscriptions to ARNOVA-L, reviewing the archive of postings, and other useful information can be accessed from the link at the top right of the webpage at

Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )


    Fundraising and Leadership Development through workplace giving, CFC = Combined Federal Campaign


    Subscribe Via RSS

    • Subscribe with Bloglines
    • Add your feed to Newsburst from CNET
    • Subscribe in Google Reader
    • Add to My Yahoo!
    • Subscribe in NewsGator Online
    • The latest comments to all posts in RSS


Liked it here?
Why not try sites on the blogroll...