About Steve

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Steven E. Mayer, Ph.D.

While in college, the future Dr. Steven E. Mayer was hired to organize the library of Human Sciences Research, Inc., a social science think tank in Washington, D.C. As assistant to the professional social science staff, the work inspired his chosen area of studies and future career. The core focus at Human Sciences Research was to assess how well an organized effort was working. Steve was intrigued by this question and decided to pursue graduate studies in Organizational/Industrial Psychology. He received his M.A. from The Ohio State University, and a Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota.

Steve’s graduate work delved deep into quantitative and qualitative approaches to organizational assessment. His keen interest in social reform was heightened by the 1971 book, Reforms as Experiments, by Donald T. Campbell, that provided the impetus to leave the halls of academia for his eventual career. He taught measurement, statistics, organizational assessment, and program evaluation at post–graduate levels at the University of Georgia, University of St. Thomas, and later at Johns Hopkins University.

Upon returning to Minneapolis in 1974, Steve founded Rainbow Research, Inc., initially as an individual consultancy and ultimately as a nonprofit corporation with 10 full-time employees. To be recognized as a tax-exempt nonprofit, the IRS required that a substantial portion of Rainbow’s work could be placed in public libraries, which encouraged Steve and his team to develop strategies for communicating their findings in ways that directly served the public. It also deepened his Humanist and Social Justice principles, and in the nearly 24 years in which he led the organization and later, he drew on them in conducting hundreds of projects of all sizes throughout the U.S. and in Western and Central Europe, resulting in a significant Catalog of Publications. The organization continues to operate today, under new leadership.

Seeking better work-life balance yet still wanting to do work that would further social justice in the initiatives and actions of nonprofits and foundations, Steve left Rainbow Research in December 1997 and founded the Effective Communities Project in January 1998. Initially, ECP conducted projects to strengthen the mission work and actions of nonprofits and foundations. After leading several big projects, he created a website (JustPhilanthropy.org and then EffectiveCommunities.com) to encourage and inform the next generations of activists, donors, and socially-concerned institutions.

As an Adjunct Professor and Lecturer in Johns Hopkins University’s Master of Arts Program in Non Governmental Organization Management, Steve for many years taught an online course in Nonprofit Program Development and Evaluation. This has allowed him to hone his perspective on evaluation and energize brilliant mid-career students with perspective and tools to pursue a more decent society.

In 2019 he began work on his first eBook, How to Show Off Your Wicked Strong Sexy and Incredibly Effective Nonprofit. The book was tailored to nonprofit staff and board members, and incorporated work from his website, EffectiveCommunities.com – its main purpose was to help nonprofits demonstrate their effectiveness to key stakeholders.

Now, 25 years after ECP’s founding, Steve is turning his lens to focus on individuals wanting to make the world a better place. This new direction is found in his recently launched book, How to Save the World: Evaluating Your Options.