PowerCheck Frequently Asked Questions

What is the PowerCheck tool?

PowerCheck is a self-assessment tool that organizations, coalitions, and groups can use to assess their capacity to engage in community organizing. This tool is designed to provide you with a systematic way to review and document your current skills, practices, and resources that help make your organizing work possible.

What is PowerCheck Quick?

PowerCheck Quick is a short version of the PowerCheck tool that is designed to be completed in 10-15 minutes. Completing this tool provides an overview of your community organizing capacity, but does not go into as much detail as the full-length tool.

Who should use these tools?

These tools can be used by any organization, group, or coalition who already engages in community organizing – or is planning to get started with organizing. These tools can be used by one person or multiple people (board, staff, and/or volunteers) within your coalition or group.

With sufficient notice, Bolder Advocacy’s staff can provide assistance with data aggregation and interpretation of results. If you are interested in receiving this type of technical assistance, please get in touch with Shannon Williams, Advocacy Evaluation Manager, at [email protected].

Nonprofits

Nonprofit organizations can use these tools to:

  • Identify skills, gaps, and strategic opportunities
  • Determine where to focus limited resources to be more effective
  • Help build a strategic plan to support your organizing efforts
  • Facilitate constructive dialog with funders and other stakeholders about your organizing work
  • Track your progress as you build capacity by using initial results as a baseline, then retaking the tool at regular intervals, e.g. every 6-12 months

Funders

Supporting community organizing is key to developing movements where change is needed most. Funders can use these tools to:

  • Better understand the skills and readiness of your grantees
  • Identify gaps and opportunities in your funding portfolio
  • Focus resources where most needed
  • Track your grantees’ progress in building capacity to engage in community organizing

Evaluators

Evaluators working with nonprofits or funders to evaluate community organizing efforts can incorporate these tools into this process. All of our capacity assessment tools are published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

We are actively seeking feedback on ways to improve our tools, and would also be happy to work with you to adapt and modify any of our tools to better fit the needs of your evaluation plan. To discuss logistics, please get in touch with Shannon Williams, Advocacy Evaluation Manager, at [email protected].

How do these tools work?

Both PowerCheck and PowerCheck Quick consist of 24 indicators divided into five sections that are designed to cover the bases of community organizing theory and practice:

  1. Goals, Power Analysis, and Planning
  2. Empowerment / Constituent Leadership
  3. Organizing for Change
  4. Community Consensus Building
  5. Organizational Operations / Infrastructure

Each of these sections consists of 3-9 indicators. As you complete each section, you will be asked to review a series of statements and rank your organization, coalition, or group’s current capacity using the following scale:

  • Very Strong / Always = 4
  • Moderately Strong / Usually = 3
  • Somewhat Strong / Sometimes = 2
  • Not Strong / Rarely / Never = 1
  • I Don’t Know / Not Applicable = N/A

In sections 3-4, you will also sometimes be asked to consider the extent to which your organization relies on partners.

  • If you use the PowerCheck tool, you will be asked to answer the following question where applicable: “To what extent does your organization rely on partners for this indicator?”
  • If you use the PowerCheck Quick tool, you can select “rely on partners” as your answer option if your organization, coalition, or group chooses to primarily obtain that capacity from others.

At the end of both tools, you can calculate your score in all 24 capacity indicators and can reflect on the areas you would like to prioritize in terms of building your capacity. And if you complete the tools online, we do the math for you!

Should I plan to use PowerCheck or PowerCheck Quick online or offline?

If this is your first time using either PowerCheck or PowerCheck Quick, we recommend that you download a copy of the PDF first to familiarize yourself with the content, before completing the tool online.

If you are already familiar with the tools, then we recommend completing the tool online.

Our online capacity tools:

  • Are mobile friendly and can be used in low vision mode
  • Provide an option for you to “save and continue later” in case you need to take a break
  • Calculate your scores for you automatically
  • Email you a PDF copy of your scores for your records after you click submit

Any data you provide us online is confidential and protected! Check out Alliance for Justice’s data privacy policy for more information.

How do I decide whether to use PowerCheck or PowerCheck Quick?

Deciding which tool will best meet your needs depends on the context in which you plan to use it. There are also important differences between the tools in terms of how scoring works, discussed in greater depth below.

For example, if your group is part of a coalition that has limited time and resources, then PowerCheck Quick might be the best fit because the results can be aggregated and analyzed quickly across multiple peoples’ responses.

However, if the same coalition is engaged in an in-depth strategic planning process as it gets ready to launch a new campaign, using the full PowerCheck tool might be the best choice.

Scoring for PowerCheck

PowerCheck is designed to be comprehensive. In this tool, each indicator consists of four core measures and one to three “advanced” measures. “Advanced” measures are optional and do not get factored into your score.

Upon completion of this tool, your score for each indicator will be between 1-4 based on the following rating scale:

  • Very Strong / Always = 4
  • Moderately Strong / Usually = 3
  • Somewhat Strong / Sometimes = 2
  • Not Strong / Rarely / Never = 1

Your scores for each indicator are determined by calculating the average (mean) of your responses to the four core measures. In the event that you selected “I Don’t Know / Not Applicable” for any of the core measures, this is weighted as “N/A” and does not negatively impact your score.

Where applicable, you will also receive a separate score related to how often your group or organization relies on partners.

For example, for Indicator 10 – Messaging, your overall score could be 2.1 out of 4, with a “rely on partners” score of 3 out of 4. These scores indicate that your group “sometimes” takes point on developing messaging, but “usually” you choose to rely on your partners to help meet your needs in this area.

Scoring for PowerCheck Quick

PowerCheck Quick only asks one question for each indicator. Where applicable, “rely on partners” can be chosen as an answer option.

Once you complete the tool, you will receive a score between 0-4 for all 24 capacity indicators using the following scale:

  • Very Strong / Always = 4
  • Moderately Strong / Usually = 3
  • Somewhat Strong / Sometimes = 2
  • Not Strong / Rarely / Never = 1
  • Rely on Partners = 0
  • I Don’t Know / Not Applicable = N/A

For example, for Indicator 10 – Messaging, your score might be 0 out of 4 – because your organization primarily relies on partners to meet your needs in this area.

How can I analyze and interpret my results?

As you review your scores, keep in mind that the goal is not to get the highest score in every indicator. No organization, coalition, or group has it all. Scores reflect your organization’s capacity, not the quality of your work.

Context matters when it comes to interpreting what data means. Certain indicators may be more relevant than others for your organization, coalition, or group depending on many factors, including (1) the size of your group, organization, and coalition; and (2) the level of experience you have (beginner v. advanced).;

  • The size of the organization or coalition (staff and budget)
  • The level of experience you have (beginner v. advanced)

View your results as a way to spark strategic conversations around what the future could look like. Here are some questions to guide individual or collective reflection around how to interpret and use your results.

Start out with some general reflection on your results overall.

  • Do the results resonate with your understanding of your work?
  • Did anything immediately jump out to you as important? Why?
  • Did any of the results surprise you?

For the capacity indicators where you have the highest scores, consider the following:

  • Why are you strong in this area?
    • Is it because of investments you’ve made?
    • Or do you have staff, volunteers, or board members who have significant expertise in this area of organizing?
  • How do you currently use this strength?
  • Are there other ways you might take advantage of this strength?
  • Is this area critical to your future work? If so, what do you need to do to sustain your capacity in this area?

For the capacity indicators where you have the lowest scores, consider the following:

  • Why are your scores lower in this area?
    • Is it because you primarily rely on your partners to meet your needs in this area (not a bad thing)?
    • Is it because it is less critical to the success of your work?
    • Is it because you have not had the resources to invest in this area?
  • Is this area critical to your future work?  If so, what should you focus on improving first?
  • Should you work more closely with partners to meet any needs you have in this area?

When considering the extent to which you rely on partners, consider the following:

  • Who are your partners?
    • How do you currently work together?
    • Are there other areas where you could potentially collaborate?
    • Do your partners’ priorities align well with your own?
  • Are there other groups with whom your organization should partner?
  • Should you consider building your own capacity in the areas where you currently rely on partners? Why or why not?

As you consider which areas you would like to become stronger in, ask yourself:

  • What do we need to accomplish our goals?
  • What do we need to prioritize?
  • What challenges might we face in moving our goals forward – and how can we mitigate them?
  • How do we maintain and/or grow resources to continue the work?
  • Are there any easy “wins” where a small investment in building capacity would make a big difference?
  • What types of growth will require a more significant investment of time and resources?

Plan to revisit use these tools again in the future.

These tools are most beneficial when you use them to assess changes in your organizational advocacy capacity over time.

We strongly recommend that you plan to complete PowerCheck or PowerCheck Quick tools again at regular intervals, e.g. every 6 to 12 months.

Keep a copy of your initial results to use as a baseline, then compare your new results with your earlier scores to assess your progress toward your goals.