Date of Graduation

Spring 5-17-2019

Document Access

Project/Capstone - Global access

Degree Name

Master of Nonprofit Administration (MNA)


School of Management

First Advisor

Marco Tavanti, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Richard Waters, Ph.D.


Theories of change and logic models are the industry standard foundation for impact evaluation. However, half of all nonprofits do not use these models due to resource constraints or the perception that their work does not fit into a model. This is especially true in relationship-based programs, such as those in faith-based social services. This Capstone examines the influence of relationship theory on a faith-based organization’s impact. The research methodology included deductive, action-based research with a foundational literature review focused on nonprofit planning and evaluation theory and social science theory. Then a total of 6 expert interviews were conducted, 3 with faith-based program directors and 3 with evaluation professionals. Finally, a hermeneutic approach was used to cycle between synthesis and analysis, comparing data from literature and expert interviews, and conceptualizing new models. While the context of the research is faith-based, the models are general enough to be applied to a diverse number of organizations. The findings demonstrate that relationship theory does have implications for how their theory of change and logic models are formed and how impact is subsequently evaluated. Relational Cultural Theory is identified in the literature and supported in the expert interviews as the theoretical foundation for the Transformation Relationship theory of change. Traditional linear logic models are challenged with the presentation of a cyclical model that is more reflective of the iterative process of Transformational Relationships. The resulting levels of impact are described as a spiral of impact with implications for individual, group and societal impact. Evaluation is re-framed with suggestions that include blending qualitative and quantitative methodology, integrating the evaluation process into the relationship, and re-framing donor expectations around what relationship-based impact evaluation looks like. This Capstone lays the foundation for additional research in surveying a larger sample of faith-based social service organizations to inform the Transformational Relationship model, develop relationship-based evaluation tools (proxies, tests, surveys) for use in programs, and an examination of how Transformational Relationships contribute to collective impact.