Meta-Evaluations For Foundations (and Nonprofits): How Do You Know Your Donation Dollars Make an Impact?

Meta-Evaluations For Foundations (and Nonprofits): How Do You Know Your Donation Dollars Make an Impact?

Last week, I participated in a 2-day launch camp through SEED SPOT, where I learned how to build a business rooted in social impact. I met like-minded entrepreneurs, I listened to experts in the field, and I developed an impact-driven business model. Why did I feel like it was important to partake in such an event? Well, as a white woman in the nonprofit/philanthropic field, I recognize how I benefit from the current philanthropic system. Philanthropy was built from white supremacy culture, and it still breathes and breeds it today. If you want to read more about that, click here, here, AND here. I recognize my privilege and the space I take up. So, I tried to find a way to be an ally for racial justice and wealth equity, while also running a for-profit consulting firm. Of course, I’ll be learning for decades to come, but I felt it was necessary as a new business owner to set a solid foundation of anti-racism within my company.


So, what about the blog title? What I have been reading has not even touched on that yet! Well, I’m glad you asked.

Throughout the launch camp, I developed a service that I pitched to an unknown audience and received amazing feedback and interest. It is called Meta Evaluations for Foundations: Measuring the Impact of your Grant Dollars. Meaning, to what extent do your monetary donations fulfill your foundation’s mission, reach your foundation’s goals, and promote racial justice and equity in the communities you serve? Let me break this down.

What is a Meta-Evaluation?

A meta-evaluation is when you review an evaluation before or after implementation. This is important because you can assess if the program or organization has pain-points, such as inefficiencies or harmful unintended impacts to its users.

What is a Foundation Meta-Evaluation?

A foundation meta-evaluation is when an external evaluator assesses the extent to which the foundation is meeting its goals and fulfilling its mission. For example, if a foundation’s mission cares about promoting equity and inclusion, the evaluator would collect data from past and current grantees to assess if those grant dollars truly made that impact in those communities. In reality, grant dollars sometimes don’t make as deep of an impact, and the only way to assess if a foundation is making such a change is by a meta-evaluation.

What is Coco Canary Consulting, LLC?

Coco Canary Consulting, LLC (CCC) is an evaluation & communications firm based in St. Paul, MN. Founded on a social-impact model, CCC strives for socially-responsible evaluation practices. We use empowerment theory with a racial justice lens within our evaluation and communication work, which aims to bring clarity, assist with decision-making, and build capacity within their client’s organizations. CCC partners with a diverse set of talented professionals for many of their projects.

Who is Coco Canary Consulting, LLC?

Founded by Molly O’Connor, a Minnesota-native, CCC is passionate about collaboration and utilizes her consortium of professional consultants to create the best team for each project. Molly also has a Master’s in Natural Resource Science and Management and Program Evaluation from the University of Minnesota.

So What?

Minnesota is known for its strong philanthropic ecosystem, and millions of dollars are donated every year. But nationwide, only 10% of those grant dollars go to BIPOC organizations. BIPOC organizations have been underfunded for decades, a symptom of structural racism. And, we all know that this needs to change. I am in the developing phases of an evaluation framework and procedure to assess and measure if a foundation’s monetary gifts are promoting equity and racial justice in the communities they serve. This evaluation intends to build awareness and capacity within philanthropic leadership.

My customers are foundations and nonprofits who care about equity and racial justice who want to know if their giving and programming are making their intended impact. And, if not, what are the next steps to do so.

What I Need From My Community:

Collaborators. I am slowly building a team and would love to partner with professionals who have skills in either evaluation, marketing, racial justice advocacy, data analysis, and more!

Nonprofit staff. People who are willing to answer questions about their experiences with grant funding and implementation. This will be done through interviews or a focus group. These questions will help finalize the data collection protocols.

Foundation staff. People who are willing to pilot this program. I have one lined up and am looking for two more. These foundations would still need to pay for the service, but it would be discounted due to it being a pilot.

If you are interested, please contact me by email or phone. Or schedule a meeting through my Calendly, linked below.

Thank you, and I look forward to getting in touch!


Molly O’Connor – CEO
Coco Canary Consulting, LLC


Black Lives Matter: George Floyd and the Twin Cities’ 2020 Riots

This post was originally written and posted on Molly O’Connor’s personal blog. I (Molly) believe it is important to share this on my professional blog as well. If you have any questions or concerns about this content, please don’t hesitate to contact me. I would be happy to have a conversation about it. Thank you. -Molly

Hello all,

As many of you have likely heard, there has been rioting in Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota. You have also probably heard why these riots are taking place. On Memorial Day, May 25th, 2020, the Minneapolis Police murdered an unarmed black man. His name was George Floyd.

Graffiti of George Floyd’s face on the wall of a building in St. Paul, MN

They handcuffed him, laid him down on his stomach, and then held him down with their full body weight. One officer put his knee on his neck, which restricted his air pathway. George repeatedly told the officer, “I can’t breathe,” and witnesses begged the officer to release his chokehold. But, the officer did not listen. Suffocated by the police, George died in the middle of the street with dozens of witnesses. Since that day, thousands of people have come together in the form of demonstrations to demand justice. They wanted the police officers arrested for their crimes. They wanted political leaders to de-militarize and initiative police reform. Many want to abolish the police as a whole. When nothing was done, riots broke out, looting commenced, and buildings burned. These riots are now on the world stage and have inspired demonstrations all over the nation. Let’s hope this noise creates change. I am not a supporter of violence, and I do hope the riots and burnings stop, but I hope the conversations about racial inequity and police reform continue. And if it feels like the momentum is dying out, we have to keep this conversation going. We have to keep this conversation on the political stage.

I’m sure many of you (especially my Caucasian friends and colleagues) are wondering what we should be doing right now. I wonder this every minute. Of course, protests and demonstrations are happening every day, day and night, that we could attend, but in this era of COVID-19, attending may do more harm than good. During the first nights of demonstrations, local organizers requested that people not come from other neighborhoods. This was in hopes of reducing the spread and further potential harm of their already hurting communities. Instead, they requested for allies to demonstrate in their neighborhoods, which is what I did on the first day. I’ve also helped clean up the streets post-riot (see video below for footage from the clean-up).

Me leading a micro protest in St. Paul. May 26th, 2020.

But then what should we do the next day? And the next? What about for the white folks who don’t live in Minnesota? What about the people who live in different countries? Honestly, from what I have read and heard from my colleagues is that we need to do three things. First, we need to listen. Even if you think you know the mechanics of systematic racism and the fundamentally racist institutions on this already stolen land, you have to keep listening. We can never truly understand what our friends of color are going through and, as with everything, we can always go deeper. Be curious, keep listening, and never stop learning. Build your awareness and build your knowledge. Do this by attending local racial justice meetings, reading books written by black authors, listening to podcasts hosted by people of color (POCs), and watching documentaries filmed from the black perspective (13th is a good one on Netflix). If you haven’t already come to terms with it, make sure you understand that racism exists, and it is, most definitely, our problem.

Second, don’t be silent. Use your white privilege to share your knowledge with your family, friends, and communities sitting in silence while police and white supremacists are murdering black people. Take a breath, and have those uncomfortable conversations. Understand that with each conversation, your message is reaching communities that aren’t usually listening. Prepare yourself for how to have these types of conversations and learn the terminology you’ll need to know when people try to deflect or get defensive. For example, when talking about white privilege, acknowledge that, yes, white people, as well as all other people, go through hardship. Life, inevitably, comes with painful experiences. But, the difference is that white people’s hardship is solely hardship. In contrast, a POC’s hardship is compounded by so many more factors (systematic racism, fewer years to have the right to vote, slavery as apart of their history, and so much more).

Third, support equity issues either by donating money, donating time, or voting. In this political climate, we need to have the right leaders in power for any change to be made. Vote for POC politicians, or if there aren’t any on the ballot, vote for a candidate who promotes equity and equality. Voting for these leaders is the number one priority. If you are interested in getting people to vote, consider donating your time and energy with Vote Forwards‘ Get Out The Vote letter-writing campaign! I have written over 200 letters in the last four months to left-leaning voters who either didn’t vote in the previous election or recently moved. It’s a fantastic, researched-based cause.

If you want to step further and get involved with organizations promoting equity, consider donating time or money. There are thousands of organizations that are doing awe-inspiring work following the common good. Some of which are most likely in your community. Here in the Twin Cities, consider donating to these two organizations:

Minneapolis Police Department budget cut by $1M to fund ...

Reclaim the Block protestors at a meeting –

1. Reclaim the Block

“Reclaim the Block began in 2018 and organizes Minneapolis community and city council members to move money from the police department into other areas of the city’s budget that truly promote community health and safety. We believe health, safety and resiliency exist without police of any kind. We organize around policies that strengthen community-led safety initiatives and reduce reliance on police departments. We do not believe that increased regulation of or public engagement with the police will lead to safer communities, as community testimony and documented police conduct suggest otherwise.” –

MPD 150 logo –

2. MPD150

“The goal of this initiative is to shift the discussion of police violence in Minneapolis from one of procedural reforms to one of meaningful structural change. We will achieve this by presenting a practical pathway for the dismantling of the Minneapolis Police Department; the transference of its social service functions to community-based agencies and organizations; the replacement of its emergency intervention functions with models not based on military methods; and the redirection of resources to support community resilience and people-directed development.” –

Below are two more organizations that are trying to make the world a more equitable place. They use their collective knowledge to promote equitable policy-change and give voice to the marginalized communities that need it most right now.

Black Lives Matter - Wikipedia

Black Lives Matter logo –

3. Black Lives Matter

“Founded in 2013 in response to the acquittal of Trayvon Martin’s murderer, the Black Lives Matter Foundation, Inc is a global organization in the US, UK, and Canada, whose mission is to eradicate white supremacy and build local power to intervene in violence inflicted on Black communities by the state and vigilantes. By combating and countering acts of violence, creating space for Black imagination and innovation, and centering Black joy, we are winning immediate improvements in our lives.” –

The ACLU's Position on Gun Control | American Civil ...

ACLU logo –

4. American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU):

“Our critical work is to protect voting rights, demand that vulnerable people in prisons, jails and immigration detention centers be released, and fight to ensure reproductive health care remains open and accessible to all who need it. Now more than ever, we the people means all of us.” –

Please consider donating to these causes. If you don’t have money to give, consider donating your time. If you don’t live in Minnesota, I’m sure organizations in your states or regions need volunteers for their fundraising and marketing campaigns! There are so many more than just these four organizations. Please feel free to leave a comment below with more of the organizations focusing on equity causes that we should be donating our money and time to.

An image of community members cleaning up the debris broken glass and burnt down buildings in St. Paul, MN

Finally, below is the link to the video footage I mentioned earlier in this post. On May 29th, 2020, hundreds of community members came together to clean up the streets in both Minneapolis and St. Paul. This footage shows the aftermath of the violent riots in St. Paul, the night of May 28th, 2020.

Thank you for reading. Be well and be safe.