The Coco Canary Newsletter – September 2020

The Coco Canary Monthly Newsletter

September 2020

Welcome to the Coco Canary Newsletter!

Hello from Molly O’Connor, the CEO and founder of Coco Canary Consulting, LLC (CCC), an evaluation & communications firm based in St. Paul, MN.

Our Mission is to use our expertise to inspire inclusion, support social justice, and promote anti-racism culture.

You may ask, how do social justice and racial equity relate to evaluation or communication? Well, from our experience, we have seen evaluation be designed, and communications reported in ways that harm, undervalue, and take advantage of the communities being served. This is our current status quo, and it is not okay. It has to change. This is why we do our work this way because we want to be apart of the solution, not the problem.

Please visit Community Centric Fundraising for more information. It is a new movement that has inspired thousands (including Coco Canary) to do better.

Lo and behold, the new Coco Canary logo!

Business Updates

1. Fresh New Logo and Front Page

As many of you know, last month, I asked my community to help me choose Coco Canary’s new logo. Well, thanks to the nearly 60 people who cast their votes, a decision was made (as seen above)! And I couldn’t be happier. Thank you to those who helped throughout the process, especially my mother and partner, my original thought partners, and cheerleaders. 

And, of course, thank you, Henry DeGrand Design, for designing my logo. If you need a designer for a logo or other marketing material, Henry is talented and hardworking. Not only that, he is an excellent strategist and researcher. 

Learn more about him from his website (hyperlinked above) or, even better, from his Linkedin.

Danette McCarthy, the past program director, and self-described “Vision Keeper,” performing in Riding the Waves (Photo was taken by me. I was the on-site photographer, as well as film assistant).

2. The Remember Project Website and Video are Live! 

Some of you may recall that I assisted in the filming and production of a theatrical film for The Remember Project in late July. Since 2013, The Remember Project has used the arts, theater specifically, to reduce the stigma of memory loss. The Remember Project team coordinates the production and performances of three plays that share different stories and experiences of dementia and memory loss. 

As a result of COVID-19, the team pivoted and filmed the plays so that program participants can still experience The Remember Project but virtually! After three successful preview performances, we are ready for our 2020-2021 virtual tour! If you are interested in being apart of this program, you can contact me at, and I will forward you to the director and project manager! 

And, of course, after weeks of post-production and some stakeholder feedback, the film is finally available for public viewing. Watch it here! Please send it to your friends, family, and communities. We want to spread the word about this amazing program!

SEED SPOT 2-Day Launch Camp participants and mentors

3. Other Updates

I am a new member of the James Ford Bell Library Board of Directors

Starting August 2020, I’m officially apart of the James Ford Bell Library’s Board of Directors (also known as the Associates). I’m looking forward to using my expertise to support the Bell Library’s mission and find ways to incorporate equity and racial justice within its programming and strategic planning.

Girls Are Powerful

I have the fortune of assisting the nonprofit Girls Are Powerful (GRP) in their evaluation work. Shawntan Howell, the founder, started the organization because she was frustrated with the lack of cultural appropriateness options available in the Minneapolis–St. Paul area. Their mission is to enhance the self-esteem of all girls by inspiring them to recognize and embrace their natural qualities of being beautiful, unique, smart, confident, determined, and powerful. Visit their website to learn more about their programming and consider donating to their cause (the work they do is exceptional).

Girls Are Powerful

The African American Interpretive Center of Minnesota (AAICM)

If you haven’t heard of AAICM, then start following them on their Insta. They curate galleries and events that highlight black Minnesota history. Their work inspires me.

Mike and I jumping and high-fiving because we bought a house!

Personal Updates

My Partner and I Bought a House!

Funny story, my partner, Mike, and I bought a house in St. Paul, MN. Juggling work, supporting (and emotionally processing) racial justice efforts, house searching, and then house buying made for a busy and stressful August! Fortunately, I had a fantastic realtor (Robin Voreis, I highly recommend her!), which made all the difference. 

If any of my followers are thinking of buying a house, don’t hesitate to reach out if you have questions OR just want to talk it through.

Let’s Stay Connected!

To keep up to date with Coco Canary, consider joining my email list (see the form below) or connecting with me on Linkedin. If you’re a WordPress user, don’t forget to follow my blog!

Talk soon!

Molly O’Connor (she/her/hers)

CEO – Evaluation & Communications Specialist
direct: (612) 868-0364

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The Coco Canary Newsletter – August 2020

The Coco Canary Monthly Newsletter

August 2020

Welcome to the Coco Canary Newsletter!

Our Mission: To use our expertise to inspire inclusion, build equity, support racial justice, and promote anti-racist culture.

Hello from Molly O’Connor, the CEO and founder of Coco Canary Consulting, LLC (CCC). CCC is an evaluation & communications firm based in St. Paul, MN.  I have been BUSY these last few months getting CCC off the ground. And I am excited to tell you about some exciting updates!

As many of you know, CCC was created as a result of COVID-19. I had been consulting since 2018, but it became a full-time endeavor starting in March 2020. And, to be honest, it has been a blessing. I had wanted to be a consultant for a long time, but my internal critic kept saying, “Molly, you need more experience,” or “Molly, wait until you’re older.” COVID-19 was the perfect excuse to jumpstart my consulting career, and it was the best decision I could have ever made.

Me being lead photographer for the making of The Remember Project mini-documentary

Business Updates

1. The Remember Project: Dementia Awareness Tour (RPDAT)

Led and founded by Danette McCarthy from McCarthy & Associates, RPDAT uses the arts to build community and start a conversation to end the stigma of memory loss. In Fall 2020, The Remember Project will produce as many as three short plays about Alzheimer’s with a professional cast. Though, as a result of COVID-19, these plays will now be viewed virtually rather than in-person. The Metropolitan Area Agency on Aging (MAAA) is working in partnership with RPDAT.

Since March, I have been helping with this project via development work (grant prospecting, grant writing, etc.), marketing (website content development and film production), and virtual integration (filming live performance for virtual viewing). And, gosh, it has been so fun! I was initially hired to be the lead evaluator. But, when Danette found out I was also a filmmaker by trade, she quickly pivoted and made me the film manager for the production of The Remember Project mini-documentary. I managed a University of Wisconsin – River Falls student intern, Hannah, who is majoring in Stage and Screen Arts. I barely managed at all because Hannah was an excellent teammate and a superb film director and editor. And, within a few months, we made a film. You can view it here!

If you want to get updates about our project, follow us on our Facebook page. Oh, and of course, please share it with friends, family, and colleagues!

On the right is Hannah Robb doing her filming magic. On the left, is the talented Danette McCarthy.

Our next step is to produce the three short plays for a virtual launch conference in late August. We filmed in late July and are now in the post-production phase. I helped film and was also the lead photographer. And after three months of intensive filming and development work, I am finally an evaluator again. I will be leading the evaluation efforts for The Remember Project through MAAA. Hooray!

SEED SPOT 2-Day Launch Camp participants and mentors

2. Meta-Evaluations for Organizations: A Soon-To-Be Service!

If you haven’t read my most recent blog post (read here!), let me get you up to speed. I have been sitting on an idea for a few months, and I finally made it into a tangible service with the help of a 2-day Launch Camp hosted by SEED SPOT. It is called Meta-Evaluations for Organizations.

An organizational meta-evaluation is when an external evaluator assesses the extent to which an entity (foundation, nonprofit, corporation, etc.) 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.

I am currently finishing up the final touches of the service and will be starting a pilot program in January 2021. If you or anyone you know would be interested in piloting this service, have them contact me! I currently have one non-profit that wants to join the pilot program. I am looking for a foundation and a for-profit corporation to join as well. 

I am also seeking a teammate to assist in the development and implementation of this project. I am specifically looking for someone who has experience leading, evaluating, or assisting in racial equity or racial justice efforts. BIPOC community members are encouraged to reach out! If you know of anyone who may be interested, please send them my contact information.

Conducting interviews for The Remember Project mini-documentary

Let’s Stay Connected!

To keep up to date with Coco Canary, consider joining my email list (see the form below) or connecting with me on Linkedin. If you’re a WordPress user, don’t forget to follow my blog!

Talk soon!

Molly O’Connor (she/her/hers)

CEO – Evaluation & Communications Specialist
direct: (612) 868-0364

Join My Mailing List!

To receive this newsletter via your email, join my mailing list!

Success! You’re on the list.

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

Upcoming Events and Moderating Webinars!

Upcoming Events and Moderating Webinars!

Hello everyone,

This post will share a couple updates about some new services I offer and a virtual event that you should try to attend (I’m biased because I am moderating it). Oh, and if you hadn’t heard, I am officially a published researcher–hooray! If you want to read more about that, visit this page.

New Services from Coco Canary

It has finally happened. I have jumped on the webinar train and am now a bonafide Zoom webinar moderator. For my most recent project, I set-up the Eventbrite page, organized the email automation, and did the behind-the-scenes tech work for the Zoom event. I also can moderate the event, which means I introduce the facilitator, problem solve technical hurdles, and sort through the questions that come through. It is crucial for any successful webinar to have at least one person behind the scenes. I know because I have been the facilitator of a webinar gone wrong and I had wished that I had someone with me to problem solve.

If you are interested in learning more about the process or would like to hire me to do it for you, then let’s connect!

We’re in a Crisis: Learn How To Talk About It With Your Employees – *FREE WEBINAR*

Thursday, June 18th, 2020 – 10 AM Central

Heather Heefner, communication expert and couch, of Dart Studio will share her expertise about crisis communication. She will be focusing on how leaders need to be using empathy and authority to build trust within their organizations. I will be moderating the event. If you are interested in learning more about this event or if you want to register, please click the link below. It will take you to the Eventbrite page.

Click here to learn more or to register

We hope to see you there!

Until next time,

-Molly O’Connor

CEO | Evaluation & Communications Specialist
Coco Canary Consulting, LLC

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It is Official: I am a Published Researcher!

It is Official: I am a Published Researcher!

Hello all,

A bit of good news to share!

I am officially a published researcher in the Journal of Museum Education. My article is titled Exploring How Awareness-making Elicits Meaning-making in Museum Visitors: A Mixed Methods Study. Some of you may know that this research is from my master’s thesis, which means that if I include the toil of graduate school, this whole process took a total of 3+ years (start to finish!). Gosh, it feels amazing to have it stamped-and-delivered. It was a goal of mine to be published in a journal. So, now I can check off that box! And, who knows, maybe I’ll write some more soon??

What was fun with the whole process of sending in my manuscript iterations was getting to know the journal editors. And, through the process, I was asked and accepted to be an editor for the Journal of Museum Education. I’ve enjoyed being behind the double-blind curtain and helping authors improve their work! I recently read an article about dance in the museum, which was lovely—and needed some more TLC.

Before I log off, I wanted to let y’all know that if any readers are either considering writing an article or are amid their manuscript, please don’t hesitate to reach out. I would be happy to be the cheerleader on the sidelines! This also includes people who are considering getting their master’s degree. Especially if you’re considering a master’s in Natural Resource Science & Management from the University of Minnesota (that’s what I got!).

Thanks to all who helped me along the way. You know who you are.


Molly, data collector extraordinaire!

The Unproductive Communication Cycle: An Introduction


This post will be about:

  1. Welcomes and hellos
  2. The Unproductive Communication Cycle
    1. A Brief History
    2. A Soon To Be Self-Help Book For the Workplace!
  3. Upcoming events

Hello everyone,

This is Molly O’Connor, the founder of Coco Canary Consulting, LLC (CCC). If you didn’t know, CCC is an evaluation, communication, and development firm. Before I delve into this post, I just wanted to say thank you for visiting this site and showing interest in my work! Starting this business was a group effort, and it was no small feat. A lot of thought and tears went into CCC and it has shaped me into who I am today. And, as cliché as it may sound, I am stronger because of it. One of these days, I’ll write the origin story of CCC, but for now, let’s talk about a book I’ve been working on!

A Brief History

For the last couple of months, a friend and I have been working on a book called The Unproductive Communication Cycle (UCC). My friend is Heather Heefner-Dart, and she is the principal for a communications and coaching firm called Dart Design Studio. And, she is the mastermind of UCC. Earlier this year, she hired me to help develop a curriculum for an emotional intelligence training she was doing for one of her clients. This was when I first saw her UCC framework, and I remember telling her, “Heather, you could write a book about this!” At the time, she was drowning in work, and she didn’t feel like she had the time to write a book.

Well, fast forward to early March 2020. In the USA, states were beginning to close, and unemployment was starting to rise. I was a part of the first round of layoffs (well, it was a bit more complicated than that) and found myself with much more free time than I had originally planned. Initially, I didn’t know what to do with myself. But, my mind kept wandering back to Heather’s UCC framework. And, I knew we had to write a book, especially during turbulent times like COVID-19! Fortunately, and unfortunately, Heather also had more time on her hands, and after a long phone conversation, we had agreed to co-author The Unproductive Communication Cycle.

A Soon to Be Self Help Book for the Workplace AND We Need Your Help!

In my next post, I will write more about what the book entails, but for now, I have a request for our readers! We are collecting data via a survey to fine-tune the UCC, as well as the productive communication cycle (PCC). We have a firm idea of the UCC, but we are still in the development phases of the PCC. That’s where you come in. If you could take 15 to 20 minutes of your time to fill out our UCC survey, that would mean the world to Heather and me! Once we get enough responses, we’ll have the data we need to solidify our frameworks so that we can get our book closer to publishing.

Here is the link to the survey if you missed the hyperlink:

If you have any questions about the survey or the book, feel free to leave a comment below, or you can send me an email at

May 13th, 10:30 am (Central):

Heather will be a panelist for the Business Marketing Club’s Weekly Update: How the CoronaVirus Crisis affects B2B. She will be discussing how effective and empathetic communication by business leaders is key to success, especially in the times of COVID-19. She will also briefly talk about the UCC and our upcoming book. Register below to listen in with 1000’s of other listeners from all over the world.

Here is the link to register:

*By the way, “B2B” stands for Business to Business. Also, BMC is based out of the UK.

Mid to Late May (Date TBD)

Catherine Byers Breet from will interview Heather sometime in the next few weeks. Catherine is a Career, Consulting, & Job Hunt Coach based in the Twin Cities. She is doing a daily 8 am networking & collaboration live stream to help consultants, job seekers, and freelancers get through the COVID-19 outbreak. She says her mission for these live streams is to build community, instill inspiration, and to offer actionable career and job-search advice!

Here is the link to the live stream page:

Heather will be interviewed sometime in mid to late May. Stay tuned for more information. Or, follow Catherine on Linkedin to receive her daily livestream reminders and recordings!

Until next time,

-Molly O’Connor

Heather Heefner-Dart: Heather and I have been friends for over a decade. It all started when I babysat her kids when I was in high school! This is a picture of Heather cross-country skiing on Wirth Lake in Minneapolis, MN back in 2016.