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