Cultivating an Evidence-Based Culture for Social Impact: Key Steps for Non-profit Organizations

On both sides of the Atlantic, GtD’s non-profit organizations are playing a pivotal role in addressing complex social problems, from reducing offending rates to improving school attainment. In my experience they are more agile and flexible than the public sector bureaucracies, taking greater risks to help those in need and being more creative in finding solutions. Moreover, all GtD’s non-profits are hungry consumers of evaluation and are keen to develop the evidence-base for their sector.

In this month’s article, I will set out the key steps that non-profit organizations can take to engraft an evidence-based culture throughout their organization. By emphasizing leadership commitment, staff training, creating incentives, and establishing feedback mechanisms, these organizations can strengthen their ability to create lasting social impact.

Step 1: Leadership Commitment:

Building an evidence-based culture begins with committed leadership. By championing the importance of evaluation and evidence-based decision making, leaders in non-profit organizations set a clear example for their teams. Leaders should actively communicate the value of evidence, and encourage staff to evaluate their projects, and promote the integration of evidence into decision-making processes. Good leaders will always find lessons in failure, and that fosters trust, allows refinement of ideas, encourages innovation, and builds organisational resilience.

Step 2: Staff Training and Networking:

Non-profit organisations should invest in staff capabilities and encourage networking with the research community. Equipping employees with the necessary skills in elementary data analysis and knowledge of the value of evaluation is important. However, knowing your limits is more important and commissioning expert researchers is a wise investment that pays continuing dividends. GtD often attends sector conferences and events, and that is where we first met many of our best clients. So, these events are ideal opportunities to engage evaluation professionals who know the existing evidence and will have innovative ideas of how to evaluate your programme. Why not get started today and check out GtD’s free social impact consultation and take your first step in your social impact journey?

Step 3: Creating Incentives and Recognition:

Motivating employees to embrace evidence-based practices requires creating incentives and recognition mechanisms. Good leaders should encourage success and not stymie innovation.  Non-profit organizations can establish rewards such as acknowledgments, certificates, or additional professional development opportunities for individuals or teams that demonstrate excellence in evidence-based approaches. By publicly recognizing and celebrating achievements, leaders can reinforce the importance of evidence and inspire a culture shift towards evidence-based decision making.

Step 4: Establishing Feedback Mechanisms:

Feedback mechanisms are critical for nurturing an evidence-based culture. Non-profit organizations should establish channels that encourage staff to provide feedback, share insights, and ask questions related to evidence-based practices. Regular team meetings, suggestion platforms, or knowledge-sharing sessions facilitate open dialogue and collaboration. Feedback not only enables continuous learning and improvement but also addresses challenges and refines processes, ultimately enhancing the impact of social interventions.

Step 5: Integrating Evidence-Based Practices into Workflows:

Evaluation has a key role in the development of evidence-based practice. This includes involving your independent evaluator at the conceptual stage of an initiative and keeping them involved during project planning, program design, and implementation. While GtD’s function will be independent of your decisions, we can help to develop your theory of change and ensure from start that the idea can be measured in a comprehensive and meaningful way.

Step 6: Promoting Knowledge Sharing:

In my experience nonprofits are not shy in disseminating their evaluation findings and adding to their sector’s knowledge base. They are much more incentivised in sharing “what works?” and are less constrained by the bureaucratic and political obstacles that are inherent in the public sector. At GtD, we value working with our nonprofit clients to develop simple infographics that explain an evaluation, publish articles in peer reviewed magazines and make joint presentations with our clients.


Non-profit organizations that are dedicated to making an impact face many challenges in their quest for meaningful change. By cultivating evaluation and developing an evidence-based culture, those organizations can enhance their effectiveness, improve program outcomes, and maximize their social impact. Jack and I are ready to hear from you and help you to develop your evidence base through our social impact packages.