Case Studies

Community-Based Non-Profit Takes Services to the Next Level and Grows


The Kanawha Institute for Social Research & Action, Inc. (KISRA) is a faith-motivated initiative that was started by Ferguson Memorial Baptist Church in 1993. Through the program areas of health, employment, asset development, and learning, KISRA works to strengthen families.

KISRA was awarded a Healthy Marriage and Responsible Fatherhood (HMRF) grant from the U.S. Administration for Children, Office of Family Assistance (OFA) in 2006. It was during this time that KISRA met Dr. Matthew Shepherd. At the time, Dr. Shepherd was the lead contractor (working for James Bell Associates) in charge of all HMRF grant evaluation and performance measurement activities, overseeing quality of services and having responsibility for providing technical assistance to hundreds of grantees.

Dr. Shepherd oversaw the evaluation-related issues of this discretionary grant program, worth more than $150 million per year, for more than nine years. When Dr. Shepherd left to start Midwest Evaluation, he reached out to some of the best non-profit organizations in the country and asked them if they would like to partner on an upcoming grant opportunity. KISRA was delighted to work with Dr. Shepherd, and together they wrote a perfectly-scored, winning grant proposal that brought nearly $10 million to KISRA over a five-year period.

For that grant proposal, Midwest Evaluation was written in as an independent external evaluator. Over time, the relationship between Midwest Evaluation and KISRA has expanded and evolved. It is now a partnership dedicated to helping KISRA improve the services it provides, explain and demonstrate its impact, build its credibility as a non-profit organization, and facilitate the organization’s long-term sustainability. This relationship has grown into Midwest Evaluation assisting KISRA with multiple projects funded by federal grants, as well as helping the organization redefine its core services and how KISRA tracks and collects information across all of its activities.

As part of its ongoing work with KISRA, Midwest Evaluation:

  • partnered on a grant proposal, assisting with program design and grant writing;
  • represented KISRA interests at federal meetings and collaborated with representatives of a national evaluation effort;
  • created a theory of change logic model describing how the program is intended to work and what indicators can be used to demonstrate impact;
  • created data collection tools and processes;
  • created a database for the collection and storage of service and participant data;
  • conducted staff trainings;
  • facilitated strategic planning events;
  • provided programmatic technical assistance and guidance on evidenced-based practices;
  • conducted analyses of collected data and prepared reports describing findings for coalition members and external audiences; and
  • presented findings to key stakeholders, potential funders, and partners. 

As a result of this collaboration with Midwest Evaluation, KISRA  weathered significant changes in organizational leadership as Midwest Evaluation assisted the new leadership team in meeting its commitments to program funders. In addition, KISRA has been able to dramatically increase the rigor and effectiveness of the services it provides to high-risk populations, setting the organization up to be a strong and competitive provider of services in an evolving high-need area.