Qualitative research & evaluation methods:

Peer best-practices profiling

In addition to conducting qualitative research with your audiences, we can help you achieve your goals by studying your peers. What are the best examples of successful and innovative approaches in the field, and what can your organization learn from them? As independent researchers, Slover Linett can interview programming, artistic, marketing, development, or other staff members at leading organizations and get a candid, detailed story about what worked and what didn’t. Over the years, we’ve found that even a small best-practices study can be one of the most valuable, conversation-broadening research steps that nonprofits can take.

If you’re embarking on a rebranding, developing new programming, designing a new website, or planning for a major new facility, it can help to take an organized, analytical look at what else is being done by your peers around the country and your competitors down the street. You and your colleagues already have a sense of what’s going on, of course, and you confer with your counterparts at other organizations. But you may not have time to step back and examine the most relevant best practices or mine those examples for practical advice and fresh ideas.

We usually conduct best-practices studies as part of a multi-stage research effort, before focus groups or surveys. That way, the insights from the peer profiles can inform the design of the rest of the evaluation. Sometimes these are combined with quantitative benchmarking studies of peers or competitors for a fuller picture.

We work with you to determine whether the emphasis should be on understanding your competitive landscape or holding up examples of today’s best thinking. After creating a short list of target organizations (some in your own sector, others perhaps far afield but still relevant), we interview key personnel at those organizations, review publicly available information, and request internal documents for our analysis. As with all our studies, we synthesize the findings and draw thoughtful conclusions about the meaning of our findings for your organization.

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March 14, 2014 | Nicole Baltazar

Multiculturalism is key for creating inclusive arts experiences


Last month, Coca-Cola aired its now-famous Super Bowl ad depicting people from various racial, ethnic, and cultural groups singing “America the Beautiful” together in different languages. Among the instant outpouring of polarized reactions to this ad rang much praise for its depiction of a multicultural America. Yet the ad provoked a slew of negative responses as well. Many of the ad’s detractors questioned whether this multicultural America could ever feel as cohesive as an America whose citizens speak a common language, and therefore have taken great strides toward assimilating into a common culture.

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In practice...

We’ve conducted peer best-practices studies for...

  • a graduate theater school hoping to draw larger audiences to its productions
  • an art museum rethinking its audience development goals and strategies
  • a national membership organization trying to increase its relevance and diversify its base
  • a chamber orchestra developing brochures for its new season

...and many other cultural and educational nonprofits.