Potlatch Fund Blog

Our First Evaluation Workshop

Posted by Ken on October 19, 2009

Morena (Good morning)

On Friday October 16th we had our first stakeholder workshop with our new evaluators, Bill Leon from GEO Education and Research and Janette Moreno from Organizational Research Services.

The Potlatch Fund staff were joined in the meeting by representatives of Seattle’s Native non-profits, past and present LEAD cohort members, past and present grantees and from one of our major funders.

As I mentioned last week I was nervous going in to the meeting as we were opening ourselves up to external review and criticism.  I know that such reviews are good, however it is still nerve wracking going into them.

The overall process was a surprise for me.  I have been really clear over the last three plus years that we focus on five core areas of work (capacity building, education of funders, brokering relationships, working to improve indigenous philanthropy and grant making).  As our stakeholders started talking about the benefits that they have received from their involvement with Potlatch Fund these five areas bloomed to seven, then nine and I stopped counting when they got past 19.  The photograph is of Bill Leon working with the group to articulate all of those areas where they believe that Potlatch Fund makes a benefit.  All of the multi-colored sheets are a different work area!!!

So – I came away from Friday, both tired and exhilarated that we have finally started this process and that there are some real areas for us to work on to better spell out our value proposition and then evaluate the impact of the same. …

Have a great day.

Naku noa

Ken Gordon

Bill Leon worked with Bike Works to help us develop our first ever outcomes evaluation for our youth programs. We are NOT an organization that has much experience in research studies or academic theories of evaluation – we are a busy, fast moving direct-service nonprofit, with little disposable time for “paperwork”. It was very helpful to have Bill start at square one with us, and engage a team of board and staff in discovering and articulating our theory of change – why we do the work we do, and what impact we’re hoping to have on the world. Bill worked with us to understand both the value of conducting an outcomes-based evaluation, as well as the steps involved in implementing one. I really appreciated Bill’s attention to designing a tool that worked for us – not too academic, not unsustainable, but just what we needed, and what would be useful for our programs. And when we needed help digesting the information and translating the data into results and everyday language we could share with our community, he was right there to help us make sense of it all.

Dara Ayres, Executive Director, Bike Works


“Building sustainable communities by educating youth and promoting bicycling.”

In 2008, National Safe Place decided to create a national database to allow member programs across the country access to enter and utilize local and national statistics on Safe Place services.  Because the success of this effort would be largely dependent upon the local programs and their participation in implementing evaluation measures and data reporting, it was important to build a system that was user-friendly and easily understandable. Geo-Light built a database that fit these needs perfectly.  The database allowed for easy data entry that simplified and made data entry more timely and created reports that allowed for more timely evaluative measures and for the first time allowed for outcome data as well as output data.  Within three years, National Safe Place has been able to establish effectiveness and quality assurance of programming across the country.  Bill Leon, with Geo Education & Research and Philip Lightstone, with Lightstone Data, are responsive to the needs of National Safe Place and are a pleasure to work with.

Robin E. Donaldson, Program Development and Research Director, National Safe Place

You and your team did a great job with our project and were a pleasure to work with. We look forward to working with you again.

Chou Noun, International Child Resource Institute


… you probably know I am not a terribly demonstrative person. But I wish you could have seen me jumping up and down (and I mean that quite literally) with a big grin on my face while reading the parent/caregiver section of the report yesterday! I was particularly struck by Table 17 comparing parent knowledge before and after calling R&R from the current and past surveys. It’s so gratifying to see the data confirming unequivocally that we are meeting our outcomes. Nice job – and thank you!!!

Laura Giddings, Member Services Director, Washington Child Care Resource and Referral Network


I really appreciate the training you provided the participants at the technical advisors’ forum for the Youth Violence Initiative on Monday.  I know that many benefitted going through the application exercise. But I was especially glad that folks from parks were present to learn about the tool and how they might use it. Parks staff struggle a bit with the focus on serious juvenile offenders.

Marilyn J. Littlejohn, Executive Manager – Human Services, City of Seattle

Thank you Bill for teaching, coaching, mentoring and all the other individualized attention you give to your students [in the Post-Graduate Evaluation Certificate Program].

Mona Kunselman, Associate Director, University of Washington Educational Outreach