The Wolves Den: New Nonprofit Boosts Chances for Success


I was told that starting a nonprofit organization is not an easy or straight-forward task. Now I’m learning that first-hand. Together with Keyondra Yarbrough, I am in the process of starting The Wolves Den, a culturally based group residential housing program for American Indian women receiving methadone treatment for opiate addiction. The Wolves Den just received nonprofit status and we’re working toward obtaining a group residential housing contract. We are also working with Wilder Research to develop a theory of change.

Developing a Theory of Change

A theory of change is a tool used by organizations, evaluators, funders, and others to map the activities of an organization or program and its expected outcomes, as well as the underlying assumptions of how and why the program will achieve these outcomes.

The process of developing The Wolves Den theory of change has been fruitful not only to sort out the organization’s activities and expected outcomes, but also as a jumping-off point for organizational planning and development. The process also helped solidify The Wolves Den’s organizational identity as well as how we will position the organization in the group residential housing and addiction recovery fields. To develop The Wolves Den theory of change, Wilder Research did a literature review of similar programs, and talked with Keyondra and me, as well as our board members, about our vision for the organization and our knowledge of what works in this field. In May 2016, we arrived at the final iteration of the theory of change.

The Wolves Den activities – which include cultural, social, family, and personal development activities – and the outcomes we hope to achieve are based in findings from the literature review. Despite not having a single resident yet, The Wolves Den can say that our approach is based in findings from similar programs. Even though we have yet to acquire a building, we can point to the expected success of our program to support the cultural, social, and physical well-being of our residents. Finally, the theory of change will help us effectively communicate about The Wolves Den to potential and current funders, staff and board members, and other service providers.

The Wolves Den theory of change

A Living Document 

One of the things we learned through this process is that a theory of change is a living document that we can use to secure funding, measure performance, communicate with stakeholders, position our program in the field, and direct long-term planning. With Wilder’s help, we asked ourselves critical questions about what The Wolves Den will be. We’ve got a lot of work to do, but we look forward to opening our doors and building off of our theory of change.

Ann Haines is a Lakota woman who has over 12 years of experience working in the field of methadone therapy for opiate addiction. She and her business partner Keyondra Yarbrough co-founded The Wolves Den, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing stable housing and a culturally enriching environment for Native American women who are in recovery from opiate addiction.