Category Archives: Nonprofit Management

What can we learn from OTF giving history – Part 3

ACTION AREA

As promised in the previous posts 1 and 2, I now turn to Action Area and related variables, in the goal of understanding OTF strategy better. Just to remind you OTF action areas are as the following:
Active People, Connected People, Inspired People, Promising Young People,
Prosperous People, and Green People. Those areas supposedly organize grant application under sub-umbrellas, and allow better comparison between applications and grant outcomes.

The first analysis that came to mind was to compare areas (across years and types of grants) in respect to the Total awarded amount and monthly dollars. Interestingly enough, there are significant differences (F***) in both the total amount received and in monthly support, as the following:

The chart above clearly shows a tendency to support in higher amounts for Active People projects against all other types. It also seems, however, that the most funded areas in general are Green, Promising, and Prosperous. Inspired, Connected, and Active are somehow clustered together in the second priority.

Moving forward, I analyzed the connection between Action Area and Type of grant. Here, as well, differences are prevalent:

  • 40% of the Capital projects are in Active people area, and 24% are in Inspired.
  • Grow is more equal, but Promising Young get 25% of funding, seconded by Connected with 20%.
  • Seed has an indefinite preference for Connected (25%), and all other areas get varying amounts in the neighborhood of 13-18%, besides Active which gets only 9%.

Looking at Action Areas in general, focusing on type of funding, it seems that:

  • Active: 64% Capital, and 20% Seed
  • Connected: 49% Seed, and 28% Grow
  • Green: 53% Seed, 41% Grow
  • Inspired: 39% Capital, 36% Seed
  • Young: 45% Grow and 45% Seed
  • Prosperous: 45% Seed, 34% Grow

All in all, OTF strategy is certainly not equal in the pots of money across areas, and shows a clear tendency to prefer certain areas over others especially when it comes to specific types of funding. Those may be the results of specific tendencies in applications (i.e. Active applications tend to be focused on Capital requests rather than Seed; or Grow projects are more relevant in Young and Green). However, this analysis cannot account for those explanations, as OTF published only awarded grant data, and not full application requests.

GRANT RESULT*

Regardless of the Type of funding, I was very curious to check out the frequent/prevalent Grant Results. Those who are more frequent certainly fall under at least one of the following category (if not all): selection committee favourites, OTF team favourites, most frequent in requests, most frequent in agencies/organizations need, significant elements in projects growth, significant in sector-wide stability and growth, capture/promise change and opportunity. You may add more reasons as you wish, and I am happy to include them here for the benefit of my readers.

So, here are the top nine (afterwards come all 3% or less):

It is clear that the first and foremost concern is: social isolation. This result is significantly prevalent than others, and this simply means that if your project is connected to this result, it will be wise to choose it (use discretion and caution here, and choose it only if really connected to your project).
Second in line are: physical activities and culture/heritage. My thinking is that these two are highly connected to social inclusion in this way or another, so we can say safely, that an application about bringing people together whether if for sports, arts, crafts, event, festival, social program, get-together, etc. is definitely going to get significant and positive attention in your favour. If you look at the rest of the list, you will easily see other variations of physical activity, social inclusion, and you will see it narrows down to children and youth.

In this case, I can clearly say there is an evident pattern to prefer projects that are focused on Social Inclusion, Group Activities, and more specifically projects that target youth, children, and suggest programming around culture/heritage and sports. This is not to say that most of the money goes to these areas, but undoubtedly, those results are the most frequently funded ones.

This analysis also shows the preferred result for each top area:

  1. Connected: People who are isolated have connections in their community (n=301, %=35)
  2. Active: Infrastructure for unstructured and structured physical activities (n=205, %=34)
  3. Inspired: Arts, culture and heritage have appropriate spaces (n=180, %=21)
  4. Young: Children and youth who are facing barriers develop strong emotional and social skills (n=165, %=19)

*inluding Ontario150

Next, I analyzed the four top frequently funded areas, to see if funding dollars are also different. Strangely enough, there are real differences and trends in the total amount funded and monthly dollars.

Total highest $ go to Infrastructure (makes sense) and Children/youth (unclear why or how it’s so different than isolated people in general). Highest total monthly $ go to Infrastructure (makes sense) and another version of Infrastructure (makes sense). All in all, again, when you are making an application, if you include the social isolation component, you have significantly higher odds to win.


It should be noted that I looked into two other variables: Population and Age. However, majority of the grants were awarded for “general populations” without any certain age limit (children over 12 yrs and youth comprise of about 30% of total Age; people with disability 15% of total Population Served).

That’s it for this post, I hope you enjoyed and learned. On my next post, I will wrap up the discussion and focus on major findings in this analysis in the goal of identifying better how OTF strategy works, and how you may improve you application in the next round.

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WHAT CAN WE LEARN FROM OTF GIVING HISTORY? PART 2

In my previous post, I provided general information in respect to OTF grant strategy. This info sheds light on giving amounts, favorite grant types, long term strategy, and in general makes some order in thousands of raw data information. When trying to understand better how exactly the grants are divided geographically, I was dealing with technological challenges including pricey software and limited sharing capacity.

[long story short: started using Tableau, which is highly friendly however I could not share and was able to analyze on the first 3 letters on postal codes; then switched to PowerBI, which is significantly less friendly and shareable (although limited in time)].

All in all, I will present here maps that show giving dollars and postal codes, and clearly show where the money goes, and how much. Not surprisingly, population concentrations get more attention and funds (in general), but if you are interested in a specific location – those maps can give you highly effective visualization of the data. I was surprised to learn that maps can shape my understanding better than any other graphs that I dealt with so far; so even if you are experienced with data analysis for years, you may still be pleasantly surprised to be suddenly aware of the potential insights you enjoy while using in data mapping.

Back to business, the map below shows average giving per month based on the postal code.
The range is between $2,125 and $265,883 per month. Quite wide (I did not control for type of grant in this map). Due to technological constrains, I could not share the interactive map with you; so I captured the core, and left the rest of the province outside this image. However, we can easily see that GTA gets attention, and interestingly the periphery gets higher amounts (the dark blue on the right is K0K ($166k), and the semi-dark blue on the left are N0G ($87K) and N0H ($81K). The two small areas in the middle of the map are L4R in the north with $190K and L3Y in the middle with $178K.

Moving forward, I created an interactive map for total giving amount across the province. In this case, you can explore the area of interest and see how much in total was awarded per postal code.

Seed – $ per month

Diving into Seed grants over the years, it seems that there are actual differences between postal codes. At a general glance, the core of Toronto/York Region area does not get too much Seed if any, and the average dollars per months significantly vary. This raises the question whether organizations in this area are well established and therefore need less Seed funding, or maybe OTF strategy proiritizes other areas that are less central. I do not have an answer for this question (OTF do not publish unsuccessful application data), but you should take this into account if you are planing to apply for a Seed grant.

The map shows that the most funded is Toronto Biennial of Art (M6P) with over $35,000 per month. The least funded on a mothly basis is St. Vincent de Paul Society of Kingston (K7K) with just under $550 per month.
I cannot describe in words how exciting it is to play with the data over the map, but unfortunately I could not share it online.
Over-time analysis shows a trend of growth in average monthly funding: from $5400 per month in 2015/16 to $5550 per month in 2017/18.

(Average duration for Seed is 11 months).

On PowerBI it looks much less informative, and I could not find a better way to present the very same data. Anyways, here it is for you to interact with the data of interest.

Grow and Capital geographic distribution

Capital across the province (per month):

In general, again, it seems that the core of Toronto/York Region is less funded than other areas. This requires further investigation, as it is not explained by this data why the core is funded less than the secondary tier. Maybe additional variables such as populations and action areas will explain better.

Grow GTA (per month):

This map again raises more questions than answers. Why the core is not represented? Why there are areas that are heavily funded? Postal codes in the middle of the map: L0K, L0H, L0B, L4A, L7K (all around $18,000 per month); Toronto in the areas of M+.
No clear picture of funding strategy comes up from this map.

The only explanation I have now is that postal codes are more dense in more densely populated areas; and this may create a biased visual of funding distribution. However, this does not provide an answer to the question of monthly awards; and does not provide a good answer why over years some areas get zero attention.

At this stage, until I find a better solution, or I get positive feedback about PowerBI maps; I have no plans to produce interactive maps for Grow and Capital. Please write me if you think this is beneficial.

However, regardless of maps the below presents a summary of monthly dollars. In my opinion this is a good guide if you have future plans to apply.

Growth in monthly funding is prevalent and significant

When I tested Grow and Capital – growth in funding is clear.

Grow monthly avg. in 2015/16 – $10,500; 2018/19 – $11,900. (average duration is 33 months).

Capital monthly avg. in 2015/16 – $12,900; 2019/19 – $15,300. (average duration is 8.5 months).

In other words, the average grants you may want to apply for next round (assuming no significant changes in the process) are as the following:

Grow for three years, for about $400,000; or Capital for 8 months, for about $130,000. If judging from the theoretical amount you may get -Grow falls way behind the maximum of $750,000, and Capital obeys the defined boundaries of $150K.

By this I will end the blog post for maps. In the next posts I will focus on
Action Area, Grant Result, Demographics, and Funding Dollars.

Please feel free to share, comment, and contact me for insights and ideas.
Thank you for reading!

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What can we learn from OTF giving history? PART 1

Ontario Trillium Foundation recently released a history of grants awarded between 2015-2019. I have decided to take a look at the data, and extract major lessons about their giving, type of funding, action areas, geographic area, target populations and so forth.
The analysis is divided to several articles; to make it easier for reading. The beginning of this article series presents some basic descriptive stats, to provide a general picture about OTF funding. As we go on, I present interesting comparisons and cross-tabulations. To summarize, lessons to be learned and recommendations for future applications are discussed.

Related image
  1. Total number & type of grants

In general, 2503 grants were given in twelve cycles of applications, average number of grants approved per cycle is 209, with the range of 99-334 (lowest June 2016, and highest November 2015).

OTF reduced the amount of grants by ~15% in 2017/18 and 2018/19 rounds compared to 2015/16 and 2016/17 . Hence, less organizations are now grantees of OTF.

The major types of grants are (out of total grants): Seed (36%), Grow (26%), and Capital (25%). One cycle grants were: Ontario150 (8% 2016/17 only) and Provincial Impact (1% 2017/18 only). Collective Impact is present in all years, however comprises only 3% of total grants.
It seems that Seed is highly popular, and safe to assume that Collective Impact is significantly challenging for forming, applying, and actually get the funds.

Types of grants per year (not including Collective Impact, Ontario150 and Provincial Impact):

Grow and Seed grants are declining with time; however Capital is on the rise. Additionally, it seems that OTF tries to be consistent over time with core grants and open all of them every year.

2. Total grants for catchment areas

Not too surprisingly, for catchment areas, Toronto leads the chart, and right after come Halton-Peel, Simcoe-York, and Champlain (Ottawa). Provincial-wide grants take 6% of total grants.

Stay tuned for geographical analysis in respect to census data.

3. Frequent grantees (5 times or more)

Interestingly enough, 29 organizations made it to the top list of grantees. Tides Canada is significantly higher than all other organizations, seconded by Sketch Working Arts. Additional thirteen organizations received grants five times.
In case you were wondering how the rest of the distribution looks like, here are the numbers: 75% of total organizations that received 1-4 grants were awarded once; 17% – twice; 6% – three times; and 2% – 4 times.


4. Money, Money, Money

Average dollar amount per grant is $116,000. Seed grants get $55,000 on average; and Grow get $368,000.

When looking at trends over time, Seed keeps its boundaries of about $55,000; and Capital and Grow amounts are in steady growth, in 22% and 16% respectively, comparing 2015/16 and 2018/19.

If so, when considering to make an application for Seed, better to ask around $55,000; for Capital – ask for about $100,000; and for Grow you can aim high to $400,000 on average. Just a reminder, the official limits are $75,000 for Seed, $150,000 for Capital, and $750,000 for Grow.

When I correlated funds and number of months in Grow grants, surprising low correlation was found (r=.38**). An in-depth investigation reveals that the distribution is not normal, and skewed to the left, hence tend to focus on lower amounts regardless of duration.

If you pondered about the monthly support, here are some numbers:

  • average funding per month is $11,000 (st.dev. $5300, Median $9,400)
  • 25th quartile gets $6500 monthly; 50th gets $9,400, and 75th gets $14,700. Top decile gets $19,700-$23,500
  • Top three organizations:
    YMCA of Western Ontario (2016/17) ;
    Second Harvest (2016/17);
    Eabametoong First Nation (2016/17)

Stay tuned for descriptives of Action Area, Grant Result, Demographics; and  in-depth analysis for Action Area, Grant Result, Organization, and Funding Dollars.

Feel free to comment and suggest additional analyses.

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On the credibility of credibility tools

Most of us, who work in the line of evaluation, bear in mind and remind ourselves and others about validity and reliability of measurement / evaluation tools. When I design a study, I always think how to triangulate the collection of data, and use more than one system to measure the subject in question. Therefore, most of us will usually use several questions to measure the same indicator (and then conduct a reliability test); and ensure the test and indicators are actually measuring the topic we would like to learn about. However, I never put too much thinking about other tools and research instruments that are perform other types of measurements, i.e. Polygraph. What polygraphs are entitled to do, is to provide the researcher/authority with some information that in general is considered more credible than just another statement or testimony given by the participant. Much research was and is done on this regard, and it is widely known that polygraphs are not too credible or reliable tools to assess whether the participant tells the truth (a not so credible way to assess credibility!). This arises several questions:
(1) why is it s widely used, while known to be less reliable than the average person would expect this to be (not to mention experts)?
(2) why did humanity could not come up with a better, more reliable, more valid solution so far?
(3) what are the consequences of using such a tool on human rights, dignity, and justice?
(4) how can we improve the tool, or suggest a better tool, or at least suggest a tool to triangulate and validate polygraph findings?

It appears those questions are high priority these days, and there is a competition in the US, focusing on “Credibility Assessment Standardized Evaluation (CASE)“. This Prize Challenge offers five prizes to teams and individuals who will suggest fruitful tools to asses and standardize evaluation process for credibility tools. In their words: “The CASE Challenge is … to develop credibility assessment evaluation methods that can be used to objectively evaluate both existing and future credibility assessment techniques/technologies”. 
Registration is open now, and those who will present winning solutions will be invited to Washington, DC in summer 2019. I am highly curios to learn what options we have to create a better, standardized evaluation, especially focusing on intended future behaviour. A reliable, standardized solution may be duplicated to other areas such as program evaluation in education and social services.

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Grant Allocation and Management

In small family foundations, the prevalent question is “how can we do best with our investment?”. Similarly to the question about fund investments in stock and other assets. However, the big question of how to impact the most with the funds, may be answered quite decently when taking several aspects into account:

(1) applicant information: what information is collected from applicant, and how much information is usable. In other words, the secret of data collection in the first stage is the lean nature of the collected data. Ensure the information requested is highly relevant for the decision making process.

(2) clear guidelines: when the foundation is getting too many irrelevant applications and letters, this raises the question of clarity and accuracy of guidelines for applications. Hence, ensure the application guidelines are clear, presented and accessible on the website, and state shortly and clearly who are the typical applicants to be considered. Also, provide a clear timeline for application rounds and decision announcements.

(3) decent evaluation: the most important, yet frequently neglected aspect, is evaluation and understanding of the contribution impact. It is easy to donate for a cause close to one’s heart. However, grant making is not only about giving, but also about ensuring the investment is impactful and fruitful. By this, the foundation needs to create simple rubrics or other evaluation tools to allow continuous and clear reporting (quarterly and annually). The evaluation tool should also provide the opportunity to compare between funded projects, to assist in decision making for future donations. Those evaluation tools do not have to be too sophisticated, they can be smart enough to compare and extract information based on the criteria on the guidelines, and most importantly – measure and evaluate the match and achievement of the foundation’s vision.

(4) organized decision making: when all the above are accomplished, the foundation’s management team and board are able to make decisions quite easily and effectively. Whether it is about deciding who are to be included in the next round of applicants (i.e. section 1 and 2 – guidelines and applicant information) or what was the impact of the invested funds over the year, and how the projects are doing in comparison (section 3). The management team arranges all the information for the board, and the board makes efficient,  wise, evidence-based decisions to highly impact and use the funds in the most significant way to achieve the foundation’s vision.

 

For information about our services please click here.

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Planning Programming Budgeting System (PPBS)

Guest Post by Ron Sommer

Introduction: reading my post about system thinking and program evaluation, Ron mentioned a close practice that incorporate both budget and planning. I am glad he agreed to write a guest post about the topic, and hope you will find it fascinating too.

Moreover, this is the first blog post for 2018!  and opening the year with such a great topic is a good reason to celebrate (:

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In ancient days, meaning the 1960’s, Planning, Programming, Budgeting Systems (PPBS) was considered an innovation in budgeting. PPBS was first introduced in the Defense Department in the USA in 1961 by Robert McNamara, and in all departments in 1965 until 1975. Though it failed to be widely adopted in government, PPBS is effective is less complex organizations such as NGO’s.

PPBS is an integrated management system that places emphasis on the use of analysis for program decision making. The purpose of PPBS is to provide management with a better analytical basis for making program decisions, and for putting such decisions into operation through an integration of the planning, programming and budget functions. Program decision making is a fundamental function of management. It involves making basic choices as to the direction of an organization’s effort and allocating resources accordingly. This function consists first of defining the objectives of the organization, then deciding on the measures that will be taken in pursuit of those goals, and finally putting the selected courses of action into effect.

 

Planning Programming Budgeting System (PPBS)
Planning Programming Budgeting System (PPBS)

 

An organization can be viewed in a simplified way as carrying out its functions through five basic and sequential phases: (1) planning, (2) programming, (3) budgeting, (4) operations, and (5) evaluation.

  1. Specification of Objectives – The objectives of the programs are to be specified in consistence with the long-term goals in quantitative terms as far as possible.
  2. Systemic Analysis – The possible alternative projects to achieve the program objectives are analyzed in a systematic way with the use of cost-benefit and cost-effectiveness analysis.
  3. Functional Classification – The budget is classified on a functional basis like functions, programs, projects and activities.
  4. Organization – Budget formulation addresses the organizational structure, managerial and administrative procedures of the programs/projects/activities.
  5. Evaluation – The mechanism for evaluation of performance on the basis of financial and physical performances to monitor, and take corrective actions, if necessary.

Each of these phases consists of a distinct but related function in the overall conduct of the organization’s affairs.

  1. Planning is an analytical activity carried out to aid in the selection of the organizations objectives and then to examine courses of action that could be taken in the pursuit of the objectives. Planning, in effect, poses the question of whether some particular course of action would contribute more to the attainment of the organization’s goal than its various alternatives.
  2. Programming is the function that converts plans into a specific action schedule for the organization. Programming consists of developing detailed resource requirements and the actions needed to implement plans.
  3. Budgeting is the activity concerned with the preparation and justification of the organization’s annual budget. The function of budgeting is to secure sufficient funds to put the program into operation.
  4. Operations consists of the actual carrying out of the organization’s programs. Preparing for operations is the object of all the other phases.
  5. Evaluation is the function that evaluates the worth of operating programs. Through program evaluation the worth of programs in attaining goals is measured and appraised. The result of evaluations is used to modify current operations, if indicated, or in planning future programs.

PPBS provides an opportunity for identifying the program alternatives which offer the biggest pay-off in achieving communal objections, or require lower costs, and these can be singled out for priority attention by planning groups.

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PRACTICE THE DOING GOOD

In the last few months, I enrolled coincidentally and luckily to two free online courses, given by Coursera‘s top professors. One of them was “Effective Altruism” by Dr. Peter Singer, and the other was “A life of happiness and fulfillment“, by Dr. Raj Raghunathan. Both courses, in this way or another, are dealing with important questions of meaning and significance, and discuss ways to improve what we are doing in our day-to-day life, in order to be better personalities.
I also, somehow, found myself watching with my kids the fabulous, amusing, and lovely movie by Julie Andrews, called “The sound of music“…

As a result of the three, I watched several interviews with Andrews after her voice loss; I bought Singer’s new book “The most good you can do“, and talked to friends about happiness and the ways we ruin our happiness by our own very hands (I still have a bunch of recommended reading to complete in the next 20 years…).
Then, I have discovered a link between all of the ideas, a shiny bright thought came into my mind. In fact, it is not that hard to do good, it is not that impossible to be happy even if we are not that achieving and successful in terms of what we think we should have been achieving so far.

The major point of Singer’s message is the willingness to do good with your money or time. It is not just giving your spare money or time, but doing it wisely and efficiently. Think about what you are planning to give, to whom, why to do it, and what evidence are exist in order to support your choice of giving. According to Singer, giving should be done by everyone who has something spare (time or money), and the leading principle is the choice of the best cause.

Andrew’s message, conveyed in many interviews and talks, is more than inspiring in my opinion. She repeatedly says she enjoys the most of her ability of giving joy and happiness to kids, families, and adults who watch her films and shows. She had a rule to sing only happy songs, never take the negative side, and commit to roles she felt may bring lots of fun and happiness to her audience. Even after the loss of her voice, due to a surgery failure, which was a complete shock to her and the rest of the world, she still found a way to do the best she knows, and started to write children’s books, with great messages of self-acceptance, and finding fun in each of every moment.

Last but not least is Raghunathan’s lessons for a happy life. He insist we can all find happiness in very simple ways, as long as we practice them. He counts several steps to follow (are described here very briefly). First, get rid of our need for superiority (what a burden it is, indeed!); Second, express gratitude to people who made our life better (if you think about it – there are numerous of them); Third, think and write what is happiness for us in a short sentence or very few words (for example: joy, abundance), and what makes us feel happy (for example: giving to others); Forth and trivial – eat, move, and sleep well. Fifth, give to others, as act of generosity. Sharing is caring, etc.; Sixth, and the most important – practice all of the above on a daily basis.

When combining the three inspiring, fascinating, engaging messages, the only question which comes to mind is “Ok. what do I do next?”
The answer is PRACTICE THE GOOD. Practice your thinking of effective giving, and do it. Practice your viewing and common mistakes of happiness, and focus on the bright sides. As a result, you will start to experience a great fulfilling and happy life, and eventually and hopefully these great positive feelings will last and enlighten yours and others’ life.

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DIY: The Crafting Job of Program Evaluation

Professionals involved in program evaluation projects occasionally find that their understanding of how the work will be used and adapted by the organization does not necessarily parallel their clients’ perception of the project.
The DIY Method, a unique tool I developed, proves to make a vast difference in both collaborative work and the process of organizational performance, changes of policy, and program evaluation capabilities. The DIY Method begins at building capacity. We aim to include all managers and stakeholders in the process of program evaluation to better find common ground and agree on the initial need for the evaluations. Secondly, we seek to clarify the research question and discover the gaps in information about the program or initiative. It is vital to recognize what is unknown and requires further investigation. Thirdly, assuming that our research question is well defined, we then focus on constructing research tools for program managers or officers to use for data collection. These tools contain basic statistics and cross-tabulations to assist in day-to-day management. They can either be simple Excel based software, or built into the CRM or preexisting organizational database. It is decided by the clients which method works best and allows for smooth and beneficial program evaluation. This stage may take some time as there is a need to adjust, apply, and modify the tools to contribute with managerial decisions and facilitate formative program evaluation. Our professionals are there to help create a beneficial environment and assist with program evaluation tool implementation.

 

Program Evaluation
Program Evaluation

When all is working and in place, our consultants analyze the data collected for the quarter or year, and articulate a research report to summarize the results, data, and trends. A significant portion of our time is dedicated to writing practical recommendations, supplying a beneficial use for evaluations, and assisting with continuous work to facilitate a smart and successful atmosphere for decision making and operations.

 

If this method of work interests you and you are curious to learn more, contact me today for a FREE initial consultation!

 

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Regression to the Mean and its Implications on Program Evaluation

Background and Problem Identification

Most of the social / educational program are evaluated this way or another, and on this post I would like to focus on repeated measures of the same group of participants or individuals, as opposed to different groups comparisons or tests.

In many occasions we want to learn what is the impact of an intervention on attitudes, perceptions, and behavior; and by this we want to isolate the impact of the specific intervention, hence the program, and see how it changed the  attitudes, perceptions,  behavior, or a specific situation; in order to infer whether the intervention was effective or not.

Many of us will conduct t-test or repeated measures test. Another common way to  investigate those questions is using a linear regression model; and by this try to predict the change on our dependent variable by a series of controlled variables. However, here comes the “catch” –

Regression to the mean (RTM) is a statistical phenomenon that can make natural variation in repeated data look like real change. It happens when unusually large or small measurements tend to be followed by measurements that are closer to the mean.”
( Barnett et al., 2005)

The problem (RTM) may occur whether we measure an individual or a group, due to the random error (within-subject variance and between-subject variance).

A similar problem is identified as “a standard error of measurement (SEM), which refers to the standard deviation of an individual’s observed scores from repeated administrations of a test (or parallel forms of a test) under identical conditions”
(Koizumi et al., 2015)

The problem: variations in data sometimes DO NOT reflect a real change, but a correction of a previous random error.

 

In other words, we jump too fast to define a correlation as a causation, without checking carefully it really is!

Indeed, research conducted to investigate these measurement errors in social implications shows that many changes are accounted for RTM or SEM, and do not reflect a real change (Marsden amd Torgerson, 2012; Koizumi et al., 2015).

Ready to Think Regression to the Mean

Solutions and Food for Thoughts:

Be careful when you aim to predict something. Do not assume a vacuum. On the contrary, plan the study cautiously and take into account alternative explanations, and different routes for interpretation. In fact, there is some good advise on how to reduce the chance your study’s results will be affected by natural errors such as RTM.

Research Design:

  • assign participant randomly for all groups
  • make sure groups are the same size
  • always include a control group
  • control for alternative variables
  • use tools with high reliability
  • control for background variables and context

Data Collection and Analysis:

  • conduct more than one pretest
  • collect two or more baseline data
  • control for baseline average / st. dev. by adding the group mean to the equation (either on regression or Ancova)

(Koizumi et al., 2015; Bonate, 2000; Marsden and Torgerson, 2012)

 

Implications on Program Evaluation

Many social and education program seek to change an attitude or perception, and assist participants in gaining knowledge of certain areas (such as financial literacy or second language).

Evaluation for these program usually focuses on perception measurement using a  before-after design. Most of the time, RTS is not taken into account, and therefore interpretation of  program impact may be wrong. Needless to say, designs without a “before” measurement worth NOTHING in terms of explaining program impact or change. In addition, there is a second aspect to emphasize which is the presence of a control group. Very often it is very difficult to compose a group of participants just for the sake of evaluation; however you should take into account that if you do not do it, you will never be able to correctly assess neither a baseline nor a change in your group of study.

In short: be cautious, plan and conduct evaluation carefully, when bearing in mind that a change in attitudes, perception, behaviour or knowledge, can be explained by a variety of explanations, that may be slightly different than the intervention you evaluate.

 

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Subscribe if you liked (:

…and feel free to contact me regarding program evaluation consulting projects

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References:

Barnett, A.G., Van der Pols, L., Dobson, A. (2005). Regression to the mean: what it is and how to deal with it. Int. J. Epidemiol. , 34 (1):215-220.

Bonate, P. L. (2000). Analysis of pretest–posttest designs. Boca Raton, FL.

Guisasola, J., Solbes, J., José-Ignacio, B., Maite, M., Antonio, M. (2009). Students’ Understanding of the Special Theory of Relativity and Design for a Guided Visit to a Science Museum. In: International Journal of Science Education 31(15), 2085-2104

Koizumi, R., In’nami, Y., Azuma, J., Asano, K., Agawa, T., Eberl, D. (2015). Assessing L2 proficiency growth: Considering regression to the mean and the standard error of difference. Shiken, 19(1).

Marsden, E., Torgerson, C. J. (2012). Single group, pre- and post-test research designs: Some methodological concerns. Oxford Review of Education, 38, 583–616.

 

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Why Community Relations Matter?

Many organizations are doing a great job. They know exactly how to engage their target audience, they know to deliver the service on the best way possible, well.. they also know to fundraise money from the local community.

However, they do often underestimate the tremendous power community relations have in order to help them scale and grow. Community relations is not just having someone to actively address  and answer phone calls, and provide with information; it is about being proactive and initiative, let people know who you are and what you do. There are so many good organizations out there, why you and not others?!

Marketing for nonprofits

Of course, you are special and unique, and you know it with all of your heart; nevertheless, you should let decision makers and community leaders know about you, your organization, and your achievements. I know you have, I know you did a lot. Now make this information accessible to everyone – let them read about you in the newspaper, let them watch you on a Facebook video, let them know good things about your activities. Never forget to crunch numbers, to provide accurate data, to show a real picture of your impact and change of community’s life.

You will be surprised to learn how many out there did not know your organization even exists! You will meet many prospect donors and clients who wish to donate their time or money to help you, and grow the social impact of what you are doing. Make sure to involve politicians, from all levels and parties, let them speak for you, bring your voice higher, assist you to achieve social goals. It is working to a great extent, but the first step is to DO IT.

Good luck my friends!

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