Inclusiveness Project Evaluation Components


First Cohort of Organizations

The Denver Foundation has invested in evaluating the activities and impact of the Inclusiveness Project since its inception. The foundation's board expressed particular interest in understanding the link between inclusiveness and organizational effectiveness. The foundation engaged OMNI Institute to evaluate the first cohort of organizations to work together in a learning community through the six-step process outlined in Inclusiveness at Work.

The evaluation was designed to

  • document and examine the inclusiveness process that unfolded as cohort organizations applied the Inclusiveness at Work framework and activities to their organizations,
  • assess the ways in which the organizations became more inclusive over time, and
  • explore potential outcomes of the inclusiveness process for nonprofit effectiveness.

Through longitudinal data collection efforts, the cohort organizations typically reported increased inclusiveness in: mission and organizational values, boards of directors, personnel, organizational culture, and programs and constituents.

These same data-collection efforts also found evidence that the organizations became more effective as a result of inclusiveness work in: program delivery, public relations, community collaboration, board governance, and organizational culture.

There were a number of other positive effects of the inclusiveness process that participants identified for their organizations:

  • Ten of the eleven organizations found that as a result of their participation they enjoyed a more positive work environment and tolerant workplace. A number of other organizations reported greater staff cohesion and more effective communication. Other experiences included a renewed sense of mission, greater work satisfaction, and a "safer" or "more relaxed" work environment for staff from racial and ethnic minority groups.
  • The organizations also indicated that they had more effective personnel and board recruitment practices. This included a greater emphasis on hiring staff or recruiting board members who shared in the organization's inclusiveness values, as well as a greater emphasis on the racial and ethnic diversity of organizational leadership and boards.
  • All eleven organizations reported that as a result of inclusiveness work their agencies were able to more effectively serve their clients. The organizations described gathering and addressing client feedback as a part of the process, as well as placing a greater emphasis on the cultural responsiveness of programming and individual services.
  • The evaluation also revealed that there were limited advancements made in changing one indicator of nonprofit inclusiveness over the two-year period: the overall racial and ethnic compositions of participating organizations. Some agencies made strides in increasing the number of staff of color and increasing the overall percentage of staff positions filled by staff of color. Others increased the number of staff of color, but the overall staff size grew and the growth in new staff hired was disproportionately white. Nevertheless, a number of the organizations stated that they felt their organizations laid important groundwork for hiring of staff of color, including significant changes in the work environment and personnel practices that would improve recruitment and retention of staff of color.


Second Cohort of Organizations

Report available spring 2013.


Nonprofit Internship Program

The evaluation of the Nonprofit Internship Program offers important findings. The evaluation included interviewing interns before the internship, surveying both interns and the organizations in which they served after the internship, and conducting focus groups with both the interns and organizations at the conclusion of the internship. The purpose of the evaluation was to examine whether the internship achieved its goals. Interns' and their supervisors' perceptions of the application process were also assessed, along with overall satisfaction with the program.

The 2011 evaluation of 17 interns placed at 15 organizations determined that the internship increased the intention of the interns to deepen their involvement in the sector in the future, particularly as staff and board members. During the focus group session, interns elaborated on their intent to be involved in the nonprofit sector. This internship validated some interns' desire to work in the nonprofit sector; they were inspired by working in rigorous and passionate environments and the experience clarified their ideas about the type of nonprofit organization and the position to which they would be best suited.

Other interns felt less certain about their fit with the nonprofit sector and indicated a preference for volunteering their time rather than being directly employed by nonprofits. These interns were concerned about making money, feeling personally satisfied with their job, and making a difference in the community. Some interns found this experience to be challenging because of the pressure and responsibility of nonprofit employees combined with lack of praise or adequate compensation. Regardless, responses reflected that all interns would like to continue their involvement in some capacity.

The internship also had an impact on interns' acceptance of diversity. Significant increases were found in interns' agreement with the following statements: "I can learn a lot from people with backgrounds and experiences that are different from mine" and "I can learn a lot from people who are much older than me."

While organizations hosting interns are selected, in part, for their existing commitment to inclusiveness, host organizations reported that the internship increased their capacity for inclusiveness work. Interns served on inclusiveness committees, facilitated the inclusion of youth in programming, and provided suggestions for being inclusive of more diverse populations. Supervisors appreciated that interns promoted inclusiveness and the ability of interns to connect with the populations being served made supervisors more aware of the importance of inclusiveness for the benefit of their clients. Supervisors were made more aware of cultural differences, the importance of sharing cultural and linguistic backgrounds with clients, and the need to be more accommodating with their target populations. As a result, supervisors found that the internship added to their organizations' awareness or consideration of diversity and inclusion. While most of the organizations already had a high awareness of diversity and the need for inclusiveness, supervisors gained the understanding that inclusiveness is an ongoing effort that is continually changing.


Benchmark Study of Inclusiveness in Metro Denver Nonprofit Sector

In addition to evaluations of its specific programmatic offerings, The Denver Foundation seeks to determine the cumulative results of its ongoing efforts to build inclusiveness in metro Denver. Thus, the Inclusiveness Project commissioned a benchmark study of inclusiveness in the metro Denver nonprofit sector, particularly among the grantees of the foundation itself. The Denver Foundation's Survey of Nonprofit Inclusiveness was administered online in 2010, with the goal of resurveying grantees in three to five years to assess changes in nonprofit inclusiveness. The survey focused on three primary areas regarding inclusiveness in the metro Denver nonprofit sector:

1.      Current nonprofit interest and engagement in inclusiveness work.

2.      Use of the inclusiveness resources offered by the foundation.

3.      Sector strengths and challenges regarding inclusiveness.

The survey was completed by 295 participants, representing nonprofit leadership from a wide range of foundation grantee organizations throughout metro Denver. The relatively high response rate (61 percent) indicated that participants were comfortable with the content and interested in this newly developed survey.

Baseline findings suggested that there is fairly broad interest in inclusiveness in the metro Denver nonprofit sector and that there are at least informal practices that support or sponsor activities related to racial and ethnic diversity:

  • The vast majority of participating organizations (92 percent) indicated interest in future work to become more racially and ethnically diverse and inclusive; 86 percent of organizations reported supporting some type of diversity and inclusiveness activities.
  • Fewer organizations (approximately 50 percent) reported having formal diversity/inclusiveness activities or initiatives. Organizations reporting formal initiatives were statistically more likely than organizations without them to have higher ratings on inclusive organizational practices and workplace environments.
  • The vast majority of participants attributed organizational motivation for inclusiveness work (informal or formal) to their organizations' missions (79 percent) and overarching values of equity and fairness (81 percent); less than a quarter reported motivations related to financial or business interests.

The survey examined organizational strengths and challenges related to inclusiveness. In general, leaders tended to rate their organizations highly in terms of setting and upholding inclusiveness values and standards. Nonetheless, survey items assessing how inclusiveness values are translated into practice (i.e., the implementation of specific, concrete activities), revealed some key areas for potential growth in organizational practices. The majority of leaders reported

  • their organizations set clear expectations regarding inclusiveness in the workplace (72 percent),
  • staff is reasonably knowledgeable about race and ethnicity issues and their impact on daily work (81 percent), and
  • the board is supportive of organizational diversity and inclusiveness initiatives (84 percent).

The areas of concrete inclusiveness practices that were among the lowest-rated items in the survey are potential targets for foundation inclusiveness programming moving forward. Further, while many leaders may have perceived their organizations as effective in promoting inclusiveness values, this had not necessarily translated into racial and ethnic diversification in participating organizations. Although this is a clear area of challenge for participating organizations, it is important to note that the sample for this survey effort represents only a subset of the larger metro Denver nonprofit community:

  • The representation of people of color in leadership positions among respondents ranged from 15 percent to 20 percent. Nearly 34 percent of the metro area's population are people of color, according to 2010 US Census data.
  • Overall, the representation of people of color among organizational staff as a whole was slightly higher than among leadership positions.
  • One-quarter of organizations reported no staff of color at all.