Steven E. Mayer has worked the past thirty-plus years with the gamut of community, public and philanthropic organizations – grassroots groups, donors, foundations, agencies, associations, networks, and systems – to help them achieve greater effectiveness consistent with their mission. Mayer concentrates on organizations seeking to level the playing field, reduce barriers, and otherwise improve conditions that support fair progress.
Before beginning Effective Communities Project in 1998, he was the founding director (beginning 1974) at Rainbow Research, Inc., a Minneapolis-based nonprofit that still “supports the successes of communities and organizations with actionable data and evaluations.”
Mayer’s formal training is in Industrial/Organizational psychology (Ph.D., University of Minnesota), but he brought that discipline into the philanthropic and nonprofit arena. His work has been local in nature but in a variety of settings throughout the United States, in Minnesota, and in Western and Central Eastern Europe. He does his work in the spirit of constructive co-discovery, helping nonprofit organizations improve – rather than prove – their organizational effectiveness. The essential question is, “How can we better assess, appreciate, and improve the quality of performance in the philanthropic and nonprofit arena?” His work with foundations helps them develop their grantmaking skills, programming performance, and productive relations in their communities.
Most of Steven’s projects and publications focus on the benefits produced by the work of foundations and nonprofit community organizations. He helped pioneer the “lessons learned” and “best practices” styles of evaluation, and likes to think he can demystify the process of evaluation so that people can use it constructively. More recently, he has brought his experience to Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Academic Program’s Certificate of Nonprofit Management program (whew) where he teaches an online course on Nonprofit Program Development and Evaluation.
Most of Steve’s publications and presentations fall into three basic categories: Philanthropy, Community, and Social Justice; Evaluation, Management Support, and Organizational Development; and Nonprofit and Independent Sector Issues. Dr. Mayer has done work for many of the country’s Top 25 foundations, for dozens of its community foundations, and hundreds of its nonprofits and community groups.