Theory of Change


Engaged philanthropists should understand the strategy an organization uses to achieve change in order to assess the impact of their giving or volunteering for that effort.

In the foundation of an organization’s strategies can be found in their “Theory of Change,” which shows the links between the organization’s activities and its outcomes, and intended ultimate impact; essentially, the rationale for why the organization believes their chosen activities are the right ones to move toward their goals. Some organizations are very intentional about establishing a high-level Theory of Change before embarking on activities, while other organizations focus more narrowly on their programs with the belief that they’ll achieve their overall goal by doing those programs well. This module helps individuals analyze an organization’s Theory of Change, apply a Theory of Change approach to their own philanthropy, and encourage more thoughtful analysis within organizations in order to achieve maximum impact.

Learning Objectives

  • Define the term Theory of Change
  • Explain the importance of having a Theory of Change
  • Apply Theory of Change practices to engaged philanthropy

Resources are below. To see all available courses, visit the SVP Philanthropy Curriculum main page.

  • Facilitator’s Guide
  • Course Handouts
  • Slide Deck

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