Case Study

Sacred Fire Foundation supports the continuance of ancestral wisdom and expands awareness about the importance of indigenous worldviews for all people. After ten years supported by volunteers, the organization transitioned to paid professional staff to meet increasing demand for the foundation’s grantmaking, events, and media initiatives. The board and executive director recognized that it was time to assess program impact, devise strategies for reaching new audiences and donors, and develop a plan for growth. 

In phase one, Kaleidoscope Consulting interviewed staff, board members, key allies, grantees, and partners from different cultural and language backgrounds. We tailored our interviews and data collection to make participation as convenient and meaningful as possible.  We used an appreciative inquiry approach to highlight what was already working but also identified  outliers and frequently mentioned challenges to gain a more nuanced understanding of the organization’s potential. 

One key recommendation was that board and staff articulate the long-term change they wanted to see and map out milestones along that path. In phase two, we worked with the staff and board to:

  • Create a theory of change and an evaluation framework to track how programs moved them toward their goal

  • Deliver training in transformational grantmaking to help the board understand the strategic importance of building long-term relationships and providing support other than just funding

  • Refine program strategies and objectives.

In phase three, we analyzed quantitative and qualitative data from key grant funding cycles. The results showed that while the foundation was having a positive effect for many grantees, it was missing opportunities to promote systemic change. To address this, we:

  • Provided detailed recommendations for the application and approval process and for grantee support to increase community ownership, improve the effectiveness of capacity-building, generate holistic results across all programs, and cultivate new grantee partnerships.

  • Devised simple tools to collect and interpret meaningful and consistent data. With these tools, which are designed to be iterated with grantees' input, staff and grantees can see the impact of the work and discover new possibilities. The tools will allow the foundation to conduct its own evaluations the future and continue developing a coherent grantmaking strategy for systems change.

The work Mary Fifield did for us really helped shape our organization. It helped us clearly see the outcomes we were hoping to achieve and design specific programs and plans to make our goals a reality.
— Sofia Arroyo, Executive Director