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20NTC Session Proposal

Evaluation: A Catalyst To Scale Impact And Investment


Friends of the Children (Friends) is a national non-profit founded in Portland OR whose mission is to break the cycle of generational poverty by giving the most vulnerable children the ability to create a new story. Friends work with children ages 4-6 from high-poverty schools and the foster care system, pairing them with a salaried, professional mentor (a Friend) who stays with them from kindergarten through graduation – 12 ½ years, no matter what.

In the last five years, Friends has expanded significantly growing from five to fifteen sites (66%) nationally. CEO, Terri Sorensen, and Director of Research and Strategic Impact, Susan Walsh, will share how program evaluation was instilled in the DNA of the Friends organization from its inception 26 years ago and has been the catalytic driver of strategic plans to scale. From launching a rigorous randomized control trial study of the program’s impact on youth to developing strong internal data-driven performance management systems, Friends tracks the information necessary to maximize scaling decision-making.

Terri and Susan will facilitate a robust discussion about how creating systems to assess data at the national and local level provides a road map to scale informing how to strengthen the impact of the program model, how to innovate in new ways to improve outcomes for more people, and how to ensure that each chapter is sustainable for the long-term.

Learning Outcomes

  • Learn how program evaluation can be used to strengthen impact
  • Understand the connection between program evaluation and inspiring innovation
  • Tangible examples of how program evaluation can be used to monitoring sustainability


Susan Walsh

Director of Research and Strategic Impact

Friends of the Children

Susan Walsh focuses on the long-range sustainability and policy development plans to advance the mission of Friends of the Children. She oversees data and evaluation, including the longitudinal RCT study of the Friends model. Susan is committed to ensuring that holistic, individualized K-12 support for high-needs children is an essential priority for public and private sector investment. She currently serves on the Board of The Children’s Institute. Prior to joining Friends, Susan served as Executive Vice President of The Campbell Foundation and as Executive Director of Committed Partners for Youth in Eugene, OR from 2001-2011. In addition to her non-profit work, Susan was an adjunct professor at the University of Oregon, teaching both undergraduate and graduate students about youth development. Susan holds a B.S. degree from Georgetown University, a law degree from Villanova University, and a doctorate in special education from the University of Oregon.

Terri Sorensen


Friends of the Children

Terri Sorensen is the Chief Executive Officer of Friends of the Children, a national nonprofit that is breaking the cycle of generational poverty. As national chief executive officer, Sorensen oversees strategic direction, fundraising, expansion, and evaluation for the network.

Since becoming chief executive officer in 2011, Sorensen has diversified funding streams and raised more than $85 million in private and public funds, opening the door for an aggressive national expansion campaign. In just five years, Friends of the Children has expanded from five to 15 locations in the U.S. and United Kingdom.

Prior to being appointed national chief executive officer, Sorensen served as the executive director of Friends of the Children – Portland, the founding chapter, for 11 years. Under her leadership, Friends of the Children has been named by Portland Business Journal as the most admired nonprofit in Oregon for four consecutive years in a row.

Sorensen was recently selected for Results for America’s Moneyball for Government Nonprofit All-Star Team. Friends of the Children won the 2014 Social Impact Exchange business plan competition. She is a member of the Leap of Reason Ambassadors Community, a cadre of leaders who share a core commitment to high performance, and has served as a board member for Social Venture Partners and Oregon Mentors. She also received a 2012 Orchid Award for the 25 Most Influential Women in Business by the Portland Business Journal.

In addition, Friends of the Children has become a national leader in evidence-based mentoring with its rigorous evaluation: conducting a return on investment (ROI) study with the Harvard Business School Association of Oregon, securing a Social Innovation Fund sub-recipient award from Third Sector Capital Partners for a Pay-for-Success feasibility study, and engaging in a longitudinal randomized control trial of the model.

Sorensen holds a B.S. in accountancy from the School of Business & Public Administration at the University of Missouri, and is a Certified Public Accountant. Previously, she was controller for the American Red Cross Oregon Trail Chapter, held key managerial positions with Sprint Corporation, and worked in public accounting for Ernst & Young in Kansas City, MO.



D137 - D138


March 15, 2019


10:30am – 11:45am



CFRE Credits

NFR - 1.25

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