Measuring impact

After three energetic years launching new festivals, public art installations, and facility upgrades, Breckenridge Creative Arts (BCA) is turning a reflective lens inward to study its impact on the communities it serves.

Formed in 2014 by the Town of Breckenridge to manage its cultural facilities while breathing new life into the local arts scene, BCA recently contracted with a program evaluator to help plan what data to collect and how to collect it. Instead of just studying the numbers, such as attendance, it will also look at qualitative data like participants’ opinions about its offerings. This will give BCA the opportunity to share its impacts with stakeholders while driving program development.

“Because we are so quickly expanding and still such a new organization, it’s important to be really thoughtful with all our programming moving forward,” said Becca Spiro, BCA’s director of learning and innovation. “We want to make sure it is relevant and accessible and attractive.”

During the first two phases, stakeholders weighed in on BCA’s impacts on local residents and visiting guests, and the resulting list was used to generate evaluation questions. The questions are in turn used to create surveys and interviews.

“After we know what we want, we work backwards from there,” said Spiro, citing an insight from the Phase 1 process that any impacts assessed need to be actionable. In other words, there’s no reason to seek data on something that can’t be changed. “It’s really important we are getting information back that we can use to help us improve,” she said.

Spiro has already drafted four online surveys, to be rolled out soon, and plans to conduct focus groups in the fall with two new committees she is forming—one with local teenagers, and another with parents and teachers.

She also plans to attend Foundations of Evaluation, a new, three-part workshop series from The Summit Foundation on how to craft key evaluation questions (May 16), how to design and conduct surveys (June 29), and how to design and conduct other qualitative evaluations such as interviews and focus groups (August 16). Taught by the Denver-based Vantage Evaluation, the series can be taken as a whole or in part, both by nonprofits who are already conducting their own evaluation programs and those new to the process.

The series is part of The Summit Foundation’s new NRG (Nonprofit Resources for Grantees) program, launched last year to enhance its financial and technical support of local nonprofits by providing capacity-building resources. “We’re trying to take that support to the next level,” said Megan Nuttelman, program officer. “Through NRG and through our grants we are working to support our nonprofits who are working to support our community.”

“When you are thinking about what programs to develop and what to prioritize, it really helps to have that data to back up where you are trying to go,” Nuttelman said. “If you are able to evaluate your work and you know what’s working and what’s not, you can really focus your efforts.”

Breckenridge Creative Arts //
The Summit Foundation //