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Literature reviews will save you time

June 1st, 2023

literature quote

A literature review is a great place to start your survey design. In some cases, surveys have already been created to measure whatever it is you want to measure. This can save you a lot of time and effort if you find something that already exists.

It starts with a question. Then, a deep dive into journals, articles, and other resources to review published studies, tools, and other literature on the topic.

For Candlelighters for Children with Cancer: Family Camp program, we wanted to explore what surveys already exist for similar programs. The Family Camp is a three-day camp for families experiencing pediatric cancer. Their outcomes are:

We did a search in Google Scholar and Google for the following phrases:

The camp-specific searches led to the evaluation reports from other camps that were good examples of how they addressed similar outcomes. Once some resources surfaced, the bibliographies of those articles led to more resources. Ultimately, we found a range of surveys from similar programs. These helped us develop the participant survey for their program.

Literature review questions to consider:

  1. Who can conduct a literature review?

This may be someone on staff, university student, or volunteer with research experience. Be sure whoever does it, they document all the resources gathered in a bibliography. This effort generally takes 10-15 hours for someone with experience. So, plan accordingly.

  1. What phrases best describe your program to use Google Scholar or Google to search for surveys administered in similar programs?
  2. What is your timeline to conduct a literature review to inform survey design?

To get your data, assign one person to oversee the implementation of your program evaluation plan. This includes allocating time for the literature review to be completed and used to inform survey design.

(This is an excerpt from Nonprofit Program Evaluation Made Simple: Get your Data. Show your Impact. Improve your Programs., chapter 13, pages 153-155.)

Want more? Check out my book, Nonprofit Program Evaluation Made Simple. There’s an entire chapter dedicated to survey design.

A New Partnership

I’m excited to share with you that Evaluation into Action, LLC, is now an affiliate partner with Joan Garry’s Nonprofit Leadership Lab. I’ve been a big fan of Joan ever since we crossed paths a few years ago. What truly caught my attention is her 14 attributes to a thriving nonprofit. One of them was to have clear and measurable outcomes. And that means, you need to have program evaluation in place.

One great way to check out how valuable the Nonprofit Leadership Lab can be is to join Joan Garry for a jam-packed workshop that will give you the practical advice you need to strengthen your org and lead with more intention. Here are a few webinars you can take advantage of. Click the link to reserve your seat!

What They’re Saying

I’m so grateful for ongoing positive feedback for my book, Nonprofit Program Evaluation Made Simple: Get your Data. Show your Impact. Improve your Programs. Thanks to Jane T. for her review.

“This is my go-to book for program evaluation. Chari spells out in very clear language the process/steps of evaluation and gives great examples of how this works. It’s all about the impact of our programs and the “so what” of results. I teach program evaluation and design and recommend this book to my students, as well. Buy this book if you work in nonprofit – you won’t be sorry you did!!!!”

If you have my book, please consider writing a review and rating it wherever you purchased. It truly helps others find it more easily.


Now we have an amazing way to measure the physical, emotional, and mental effects of our programs...

Chari accurately captured the fundamental goals and mission of our organization and transformed our input into a clear evaluation process that helps us assess the impact of our programs on the lives of the families that we serve. Now we have an amazing way to measure the physical, emotional, and mental effects of our programs and to guide change, ensuring that we are delivering services in the most effective way possible.

Brandi Tuck, Executive Director, Portland Homeless Family Solutions

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