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COVID-19: State of the Ontario Nonprofit Sector One Year Later

July 1, 2021

In spring 2021, the Ontario Nonprofit Network (ONN) and l'Assemblée de la Francophonie de l'Ontario (l'AFO) engaged nonprofit Community Researchers to conduct a bilingual survey of Ontario nonprofits. The focus was on the experiences of nonprofits during the pandemic and, in particular, the state of their operations in 2020-21, along with the adequacy of governmental relief measures to support nonprofits during the emergency. This followed a previous survey conducted by ONN and l'AFO in spring 2020.Responses reveal much about the dedicated efforts nonprofits have made to continue serving communities, the fragmented and inadequate government measures to respond to the COVID-19 crisis, and the work ahead as Ontario transitions into a recovery.The survey was open to all nonprofits in Ontario, including charities, nonprofit cooperatives and grassroots groups, with a mission to serve a public benefit. It was conducted between May 17- June 4, 2021 and received 2,983 responses. The survey technical report includes all data cross tabulated by region, sector, size, and language of operation. De-identified data sets are publicly available on the ONN website.

Achieving Greater Impact by Starting with Learning

September 12, 2018

When grantmakers ask the organizations they fund about their evaluation plans, they are typically motivated by a desire to achieve the greatest impact possible through their investment. They often hope to help the organizations they fund to do the same. However, these conversations sometimes veer off track, especially when nonprofits feel pressure to produce evaluation results that align with funders' preconceived ideas. Evaluation can turn into a tool for accountability and risk management rather than a tool for learning. One way to prevent this dynamic from developing is to make sure that grantmakers and grant recipients talk with one another about why they are interested in evaluating a particular project before they get into discussions of what should be measured and how data collection tools should be used.This guide explores strategies that grantmakers can use to lay the groundwork for meaningful evaluation by focusing on learning rather than measurement early in the grant application process. We begin by defining what a learning culture or learning organization means and why it is important. Then, we discuss some of the key elements of learning organizations. Lastly, we outline some principles for grantmakers to help guide the development of a learning relationship with future grant recipients.

Collaborative Evaluation Approaches: A How-To Guide For Grantmakers

January 1, 2018

The purpose of this guide is to provide grantmakers who support the nonprofit sector with practical guidance about how to take a more collaborative approach to evaluation. When we use the term grantmaker, we are referring to non-governmental funders that provide financial support to nonprofit groups including United Ways, corporate, public, and private foundations.

Leading Our Future: Leadership Competencies in Ontario's Nonprofit Sector

August 1, 2017

The report is based on a literature review, and focus group and key informant interviews with leaders across the sector. It identifies the forces and pressures facing nonprofits and charities, and the seven key roles the sector and organizations will need to lead into the future.The report also outlines how we move towards this vision, with a framework focused on three levels: organizational, sector, and systems and policy change.

Making Evaluation Work in the Nonprofit Sector: A Call for Systemic Change

July 25, 2017

This position paper is a call for systemic changes that will create an ecosystem within which it is straightforward, efficient, and rewarding for nonprofits and funders to invest in evaluation work. It is also intended to further critical conversations to build a nonprofit sector that is more responsive, accountable, and focused on the best ways to support the communities in which they work.

Matching Evaluation Approaches to Expectations

February 7, 2017

In the nonprofit sector, evaluation is a word that gets used a lot. Different kinds of data gathering approaches with different purposes sometimes get lumped together under the general heading of evaluation. This can lead to miscommunication and unrealistic expectations. To try to clear things up a bit, we have created this resource.

Learning Together: Five Important Discussion Questions to Make Evaluation Useful

October 28, 2016

This guide is meant to help you articulate more clearly what you want to get out of an evaluation and what concerns you may have about the process. It is meant as a conversation starter and is a means to open up a dialogue with your stakeholders in a subject area that can be complex and difficult. That's why we have developed this discussion guide. It provides tips about how to ask these questions in different contexts, the challenges that can come up, and what to do about them.

Principles to Help Us Get to Useful Evaluation

August 9, 2016

We know nonprofit leaders have a lot on their plates and an evaluation that is not seen as useful can be one more burden they have to bear. We also know that sometimes, particularly for those who may not have as much experience with evaluation, it can be difficult to identify what is causing the frustration. Our hope is that these principles can be used by you as a reference. For example, if you're feeling that an evaluation isn't working the way you think it should but aren't quite sure why, these principles might help you to identify where the problems might be. It might even help you the next time you have a conversation with your evaluation stakeholders about what you need in order to overcome your challenges.

Exploring the Issues: An Evaluation Literature Review

January 21, 2016

Finding ways to make evaluation more meaningful and more useful has been a key theme in the evaluation literature since the discipline began, and there is no shortage of discussion around improving evaluation among nonprofit practitioners. The topic has been a highlight at ONN's annual conference in recent years.However, much of the discussion around improving evaluation focuses on methodology, tools, and indicators.There has been less attention paid to who is asking and determining the questions of evaluation, such as who evaluation is for and what is its purpose. Consequently, the purpose of this background paper is to review the literature on evaluation use with a particular focus on systemic factors. In other words, we are interested in looking at the relationship between evaluation practice and the overall structure and function of the nonprofit sector in Ontario.We're interested in the policies and regulations that guide us, the roles played by various actors, theassumptions we make, the language we use, and the ways in which resources move through the sector. We're examining the purposes that evaluation serves, both overt and implicit. We want to learn more about the factors that make evaluations really useful, the issues that can get in the way of evaluations being useful, and ideas for improvement. Ultimately, our goal in this paper is to generate a broad vision to inform our project's final outcomes.

Policy Principles for Social Impact Bonds

August 1, 2015

SIBs as currently designed are not sustainable for the nonprofit sector unless they include the delivery organization in contract negotiation, program and evaluation design, ensure full cost recovery and include revenue sharing for the nonprofit.In addition, participants in programs need to be treated with respect and good faith. They cannot be harmed by their participation in a SIB program or left without needed supports. Government needs to do more than pay a premium for testing a program model. They need to commit to incorporating successful programs and the participants into their service systems at the end of the SIB. If these design features are present in social impact bonds, this financing method may have a place in the spectrum of program financing.

Towards a Data Strategy for the Ontario Nonprofit Sector

July 1, 2015

This document presents context to help us think about how nonprofits as a sector can seize the opportunities that data offers. It outlines the strategic value of a nonprofit sector approach to data, the unique strengths we have to build on in Ontario, essential components of a data strategy, and what might come next.In sum: why does the Ontario nonprofit sector need a data strategy, and what could a successful one look like? This document is intended to broaden a conversation about these questions, and gather answers that can help us take the next step together.