Thursday, December 31, 2009

Reflection & top 4 posts from 2009

2009 has been a great year, having written 117 blog posts on a variety of topics. I know my resolution for 2010 will be to write more often and with better consistency! Here are the top 4 posts that were written in 2009 that have been the most popular.

1. Advertising on nonprofit websites?

2. Why can't a nonprofit get its own credit card?

3. 3 reasons why you should have a twenty something on your board

4. Want to know how your nonprofit is doing financially?

Interestingly, they are not the most popular overall. Three posts I wrote in 2008 were more popular this year, with the SWOT post getting more hits than all four of the above combined:

1. Using SWOT Analysis for Strategic Planning

2. In-Kind Gifts 101: Definition, Acknowledgement & the Law

3. Nonprofit Blogging Tips from ProBlogger

Friday, December 18, 2009

Top 3 Weekly Blog Posts for Nonprofit Workers

1. Nonprofit Fiscal Rules for the "New Normal" by Nonprofit Board Crisis

2. Hear Ye, Hear Ye - Overhead is Over by Balancing the Mission Checkbook

3. Generational Differences by Michigan Nonprofit Association Blog

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Reader Question: Starting a new program and convincing foundations to fund?

I recently did a session on Programs: Developing, Managing, and Evaluating for the Emerging Nonprofit Leadership Network and I was asked a question by a participant about starting a new program. The participant was wondering how does convince a foundation to fund a new program when you have never done it before, and therefore don't have evaluations showing it was effective?

This question surprised me because I thought most would know the answer, but I found that many at nonprofits were wondering this same thing. The answer is research. You should rarely, if ever, start a new program without research supporting your intervention. So, what if no one has ever done what you want to do - or someone has done it, but there isn't research supporting it yet? Well, then you find research supporting components of the program.

I'll take an easy example, say you want to start a program where 10th graders become tutors and mentors for at-risk 6th graders to help them improve academic achievement. Sure, there might not be research on that specific program, but you should definitely be able to find research on whether mentoring is effective, at what ages mentoring has been effective, what research has found to be successful interventions for academic achievement, research on causes for low achievement for at-risk youth, etc. Using this research you should be able to build a case to support the program you want to do.

So, what if you can't find research or research does not support what you want to do? If you can't find research to support any component of your program in any way, then it probably isn't the best choice. If you find research but it doesn't support your approach - then figure out why and think of ways you can address that.

Where do you find this research? Online, articles, journals, etc. Personally, I use Google Scholar when searching for articles, but you can also use local libraries to access journals and books. Also keep in mind if you find a good article that fits what you are looking for, look at the citations and who the author cited. It is more likely than not you will find a bunch more support or useful information that will help build your case!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Wondering how big of a sample size you need?

So, you have decided to do an evaluation - or are doing some preliminary research for a proposed program. You sit down and try to figure out the details, which includes how many people should you send your survey to? If you are just doing asking a bunch of people to participate in a survey asking about why they donate, or whether they enjoyed your program, then the sample size probably isn't as important. It is important is you want to be able to generalize your findings to the general population - or to the targeted population. So, how do you determine it? Well I could tell you the complex formula and math behind determining a sample size, but it is easier just to point you to a simple sample size calculator you can download. This link will take you to a survey course website, on the bottom left of the page you will see "Sample Size Calculator" click it and download.

Once it pops up, it might be a little confusing so here are a few tips to make it easier:

  • The first tab "Type of Analysis" you can usually leave the defaults - unless you are doing complex sampling - which you probably aren't.
  • The second tab "Values and Settings" is most important. Make sure to enter your population size, etc.
  • The third tab "Corrections" is pretty much self-explanatory and you will probably not use it - but if you do it explains what each option means by the selection box.
  • Once you have entered everything in, then the box to the right should say a number - that is the number of people your sample should include.
*When you download it, there is a "quickhelp" folder that explains what each box means if you are confused about what to put there. Good luck!