Achieving Foundation Accountability and Transparency: Lessons From the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Scorecard

The purpose of this article is to help foundations in their accountability and transparency efforts by sharing lessons from one foundation’s journey to develop a scorecard. A commitment to funding and sharing the results from rigorous evaluations set the tone for Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) accountability. The Scorecard is a powerful tool for RWJF to set goals, track organizational effectiveness, and motivate responses to shortcomings. Foundations can tailor their scorecard to include what best serves their needs. With its Scorecard, RWJF found that comparative and quantitative measures are the most powerful forces to motivate change. Setting targets motivates staff Read more

Categories: Organization Learning and Evaluation 

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Aggregate Regional Association Logic Model

This logic model is an aggregation of key activities that you perform as a regional association (RA). It was developed in conjunction with RAs that attended Innovation Network’s evaluation session at the 2013 Forum of Regional Associations of Grantmakers Annual Conference, and was further vetted by a group of RA representatives before being finalized. The purpose of this aggregate logic model is to provide RAs with a springboard to build their own logic models and other planning documents. A logic model is a visual representation of the work that you are doing and how it is connected to changes that Read more

Categories: Organization Learning and Evaluation , Strategy and Evaluation

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Aligning Capital with Mission

In an effort to support the broader mission investing field, Aligning Capital with Mission offers, for the first time publicly, findings that highlight the strong alignment of the Social Investment Program’s impact with a Foundation’s mission and programmatic goals. The Annie E. Casey Foundation, a private foundation dedicated to improving the lives of America’s children and families, engaged InSight at Pacific Community Ventures — with research support from The Center for the Advancement of Social Entrepreneurship (CASE) at Duke University — to conduct the first comprehensive third-party evaluation of its Social Investment Program, a $125 million allocation from its endowment dedicated to mission Read more

Categories: Mission, Vision and Values, Organization Learning and Evaluation 

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Assessing Nonprofit Networks Prior to Funding: Tools for Foundations to Determine Life Cycle Phase and Function

Foundations and other funders can use life cycle analysis tools to determine a nonprofit network’s stage of development and functional characteristics as a precursor to funding network activities. Characteristics that determine a network’s readiness for funding include network cohesion (trust and communication), cooperation (mutual purpose and goals), and capacity for externally focused action. Network Mindset Survey analysis can help determine a network’s readiness for funding by measuring members’ understanding of the power and utility of networks; degree of membership engagement; identification of specific, common concerns; and readiness for productive action. Three networks that received foundation support for networking principles, mapping, Read more

Categories: Grantmaking, Grants Management, Organization Learning and Evaluation 

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Benchmarking Foundation Evaluation Practices

For foundations, there are lots of questions to reflect on when thinking about which evaluation practices best align with their strategy, culture, and mission. How much should a foundation invest in evaluation? What can they do to ensure that the information they receive from evaluation is useful to them? With whom should they share what they have learned? Considering these numerous questions in light of benchmarking data about what other foundations are doing can be informative and important. Developed in partnership with the Center for Evaluation Innovation (CEI), Benchmarking Foundation Evaluation Practicesis the most comprehensive data collection effort to date Read more

Categories: The Philanthropic Sector, Organization Learning and Evaluation , Standards, Codes, and Ethics, Strategy and Evaluation

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Beyond Compliance: Measuring to Learn, Improve, and Create Positive Change

At their best, systems for monitoring and measuring nonprofit performance illuminate what an organization is accomplishing, where its resources are going, and how that organization might address weaknesses and build on successes. At their worst, such systems become an expensive compliance exercise, diverting resources from program delivery without returning a greater understanding of how to achieve an organization’s goals. With that context in mind, the Center and the Wharton Social Impact Initiative developed this report to tackle questions central to effective philanthropy: How do non-profits and donors measure and manage results? What tools exist, whom do they serve, which questions Read more

Categories: Organization Learning and Evaluation , Program Level Learning and Evaluation, Resources

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Building a Strategic Learning and Evaluation System for Your Organization

The call for evaluation has grown louder in the field of philanthropy. There is a need for a deeper understanding of ongoing activities to inform strategic decisions about what to do next. But despite this growing need, current practices are often uncoordinated and unhelpful at an organizational level. How can organizations’ evaluation processes be more systematic, coordinated, and intentional, leading to greater understanding of their impact?

Categories: Organization Learning and Evaluation , Strategy and Evaluation

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Building Evaluation Capacity

Evaluation is a process that applies systematic inquiry to program management, improvement, and decision making. Evaluation is also used to assess the status or progress of a strategy (i.e., a group of meaningfully connected programs, not just the simple aggregation of multiple programs) or an initiative (a grouping of strategies). Evaluation Capacity is the ability of staff and their organizations to do evaluation. Because evaluation is systematic, it involves proficiency in a particular set of skills.

Categories: Organization Learning and Evaluation , Strategy and Evaluation, Resources

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Case Study: Central Minnesota Community Foundation: Creating a Community Leadership Compass

Creating a Community Leadership Compass is a case study that describes the Central Minnesota Community Foundation’s transformative path into community leadership work. It looks at how the board and staff worked together to create a vision and framework for community leadership and at early community leadership efforts. It also includes criteria developed by the foundation for embarking on community leadership projects.

Categories: Grantmaking, Organization Learning and Evaluation , Beyond the Grant 

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Changemaking: Building Strategic Competence

This article examines The Skillman Foundation’s efforts to add value to its work through “changemaking,” which encompasses roles and practices beyond grantmaking through which a foundation advances its goals – and offers 10 lessons for grantmakers that want to assume a changemaking role. This approach draws upon and leverages the Foundation’s knowledge, networks and civic reputation to supplement its grantmaking investments. Changemaking also required the Foundation to build new strategic competencies such as working across traditionally siloed grantmaking programs, adding evaluation and learning staff, and increasing communication and alignment between board and staff. (The Skillman Foundation is pleased to share Read more

Categories: Models & Approaches, Organization Learning and Evaluation , Beyond the Grant 

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Charitable Lead Trust Handbook

An in-depth guide to the workings and variations of Charitable Lead Trusts.

Categories: Field/Sector Learning and Evaluation , Organization Learning and Evaluation , Individual Professional Development , Organizational Development - Strengthening/Building Your Team

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Community Leadership Framework Toolbox

A tool for community foundations for using the Framework for Community Leadership by a Community Foundation. It can help your community foundation: Understand community leadership Assess your community leadership strengths and challenges Plan new community leadership work Analyze past and current community leadership efforts.

Categories: Grantmaking, Organization Learning and Evaluation , Beyond the Grant 

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Community Leadership Network Evaluation — Key Findings from a Survey of Participants

This report summarizes findings from an evaluation of the Community Leadership Network, a signature CFleads learning opportunity. It makes the case for why peer learning matters: practitioners learn best when they are able to hone and practice their leadership skill in environments that encourage peer learning and exchange.

Categories: Field/Sector Learning and Evaluation , Organization Learning and Evaluation , Individual Professional Development , Organizational Development - Strengthening/Building Your Team

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Community Leadership Networks Summary

As part of a multi-tiered effort to advance knowledge and understanding of community leadership, the Council on Foundations’ Community Foundations Leadership Team, in partnership with CFLeads, launched action-oriented Community Leadership Networks. Learn more about these networks here.

Categories: Field/Sector Learning and Evaluation , Organization Learning and Evaluation , Individual Professional Development , Organizational Development - Strengthening/Building Your Team

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Constructing Collaborative Success for Network Learning: The Story of the Discovery Community Self-Assessment Tool

Despite conversations about the importance of community collaboration, foundations continue to struggle with how to best frame and support collaborative success. Existing tools to assess collaboration may not fit with either a foundation’s values or a specific program strategy. From a foundation perspective, developing a community self-assessment tool reinforced the idea that collaborative functioning is crucial and deserves attention. This article shares a story of the development and initial use of the Discovery Community Self-Assessment Tool as a process of social construction critical to collective action and a possible indicator of network learning.  

Categories: Models & Approaches, Organization Learning and Evaluation , Program Level Learning and Evaluation

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Demonstrating the Value of Social Service Programs: A Simplified Approach to Calculating Return on Investment

In 2008, as charitable giving dropped by $6.4 billion, 54 percent of human service programs saw an increase in the need for their services. Additionally, 74 percent of programs specifically serving children and youth reported being underfunded or severely underfunded. As government and foundation grantmakers transition from charitable giving to social investment, a Gates Foundation report on eight methodologies to assist measuring social value creation finds the methodologies are many years away from being suitable for both nonprofits and grantmakers. To better recognize and communicate the work of frontline practitioners, there is a need to change the orientation of our Read more

Categories: Organization Learning and Evaluation , Program Level Learning and Evaluation

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Designing an Evaluation of a New Initiative: A Practical Approach to Ensure Evaluation Use

This article describes the process of planning an evaluation of the Tribal Tobacco Education and Policy initiative. The initiative was launched in 2007 to reduce tobacco use among American Indians, who disproportionately suffer the negative health effects of tobacco use. The work of the initiative and the evaluation had to incorporate an understanding of tribal structure as well as of the traditional use of tobacco in American Indian sacred ceremonies. The theory of change was conceptualized as circular, rather than linear, in keeping with American Indian philosophical traditions. The planning process, utilizing evaluators familiar with community mobilization and policy evaluation Read more

Categories: Organization Learning and Evaluation , Issue Specific Grantmaking, Program Level Learning and Evaluation

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Discovery Timeline

The Discovery Timeline provides a web-based opportunity to learn more about the history, events, and decisions of Discovery.

Categories: Organization Learning and Evaluation 

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DIY Strategy Improvements: 10 Activities for Community Foundations

We’ve put together a set of activities that The Giving Practice has used with all kinds of community and private foundations. Our clients have used these activities to support an ongoing strategy practice, versus a discrete strategic planning process. Some activities we created with our clients. Others we’ve adapted from the field. You can customize each for use during routine meetings or even informal conversations as well as designated learning opportunities like retreats and strategy reviews. Most of what you’ll find here is for everyday use, when there is no consultant and not a lot of time for preparation or Read more

Categories: Organization Learning and Evaluation , Strategy and Evaluation

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Doing What it Takes: Organizing Your Foundation For Impact

In this video, Paul Grogan discusses how The Boston Foundation has taken on a significant community leadership role in addition to its stewardship and grantmaking roles. Hear how The Boston Foundation: uses research to help guide its direction gathers citizen input to inform its activities makes the most of communications to promote its work and directly engages in public policy activity to ensure a deep and long-lasting impact.

Categories: Organization Learning and Evaluation , Strategy and Evaluation, Resources

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Enhancing Foundation Capacity: The Role of the Senior Leadership Team

This article examines the issue of foundation organization design and assesses how foundation leaders might think about their organizations as institutions. Noting that any organization structure inhabited by human beings creates silos and territorial issues, foundation leaders are increasingly using two primary mechanisms to minimize these artificial barriers and maximize collaboration: enhanced headquarters functions to help integrate across the organization, and senior leadership teams. This article reviews the structure, roles, responsibilities, and value-add of senior leadership teams at 19 foundations. The senior leadership team plays a crucial role in foundations, functioning as an advisory group to the president and chief Read more

Categories: Human Resources Management, Organization Learning and Evaluation , Strategy and Evaluation, Individual Professional Development 

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Evaluating Complexity

While evaluation has traditionally focused on assessing programmatic impact according to pre-determined indicators, a new approach is needed for evaluating complex initiatives, as well as initiatives operating in complex environments where progress is not linear, predictable, or controllable. 9 propositions can help evaluators navigate the unique characteristics of complex systems, improve their evaluation practice, and better serve the needs of the social sector.

Categories: Organization Learning and Evaluation , Strategy and Evaluation, Resources

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Evaluating the Impact of Social Media at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

RWJF developed a logic model, that outlines how we believe our social media activities will produce programmatic improvement and greater impact. The model was designed and developed with the help of Victoria Dougherty, of Victoria Dougherty Consulting, who based the model on information collected through document review and interviews with RWJF communications staff, research and evaluation program officers, and other program staff at RWJF who were early adopters of social media in the workplace.

Categories: Organization Learning and Evaluation , Strategy and Evaluation, Resources

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Evaluation Capacity & Evaluative Thinking in Organizations

This monograph details and summarizes the work of more than 150 partners in Rochester, New York who studied and learned together about participatory program evaluation, evaluation capacity building and evaluative thinking.

Categories: Organization Learning and Evaluation 

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Evaluation Capacity Building: Examples and Lessons from the Field

Innovation Network developed these three introductory evaluation documents as part of Building Nonprofit Capacity to Evaluate, Learn, and Grow Impact, a workshop we presented in partnership with Grantmakers for Effective Organizations’ Scaling What Works initiative. Excerpt: Capacity building is a catch all term for an array of efforts a nonprofit organization may undertake to strengthen its operations or activities. In addition to evaluation, a few common areas in which nonprofits seek to improve capacity include technology, back office management (e.g., accounting and human resources), fundraising, advocacy, communications, governance, leadership development, and volunteer recruitment and development.

Categories: Organization Learning and Evaluation , Program Level Learning and Evaluation

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Evaluation Capacity Building: Funder Initiatives to Strengthen Grantee Evaluation Capacity and Practice

Evaluation Capacity Building (ECB) is the process of improving an organization’s ability to use evaluation to learn from its work and improve results. Organizational learning is incredibly important. Organizations that are adept at learning from mistakes and adapting to new challenges are more likely to be successful, and in the nonprofit sector, more likely to make significant progress toward mission-related outcomes. In general, ECB can be used to: Improve the knowledge and skills of individuals. Staff members need to have an understanding of evaluation, and the confidence to apply basic evaluation approaches and methods to their work. Everyone does not Read more

Categories: Organization Learning and Evaluation , Program Level Learning and Evaluation, Organizational Development - Strengthening/Building Your Team

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Evaluation in Philanthropy: Perspectives from the Field

This publication offers a brief overview of how grantmakers are looking at evaluation as a means of improvement. It is based on a review of the current literature on evaluation and learning, outreach to grantmakers that have made these activities a priority, and the work of GEO and the Council on Foundations to raise this issue more prominently among their members.

Categories: Field/Sector Learning and Evaluation , Organization Learning and Evaluation , Program Level Learning and Evaluation

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Evaluation Use in Philanthropy: Evaluative Thinking for Grantmakers

This guide helps you develop and expand the use of evaluation and evaluative thinking by providing definitions, key components, sample assessments and more.  

Categories: Organization Learning and Evaluation 

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Evaluative Tools for Articulating and Monitoring Foundation Strategy

Research shows that while foundation leadership and staff value strategy and foundations largely perceive themselves as strategic, they often struggle to articulate, implement, and track strategy. The William Penn Foundation has developed a collection of tools to articulate and assess its progress toward strategic goals. Each tool employs a structured format to promote standardization; flexibility, though, is encouraged in the application of each tool to ensure that form does not dictate function. Each tool provides a template for organizing information that should be tweaked as needed. The speed and breadth of adoption of each tool varies and is often related Read more

Categories: Organization Learning and Evaluation , Organizational Development - Strengthening/Building Your Team

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Factors Influencing Donor Partnership Effectiveness

The International Development Research Centre (IDRC) produced six case studies on jointly funded programs related to the environment, global health, and information technologies in developing regions around the world. A two-dimensional tool probing eight factors that influence donor (funder) partnership performance and interinstitutional communication was developed and used in conjunction with a Partnering Process Model to guide the preparation of the case studies. The case studies demonstrated that communication is important externally, that is, among donor partners, and internally, that is, within the various divisions of IDRC. With the use of this tool, it was possible to observe how communication Read more

Categories: Organization Learning and Evaluation , Beyond the Grant 

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Fiscal Fitness for Nonprofits: Stories from the Field

“Stories From the Field, ” published by The Wallace Foundation, describes their effort to provide financial trainings to executives of high-performing organizations. FMA’s work in Chicago with After School Programs is also recognized. (FMA is pleased to share this report with the permission of The Wallace Foundation.)

Categories: Organization Learning and Evaluation , General Grants 

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Foundation Readiness for Community Transformation: Learning in Real Time

Skillman senior program officer Marie Colombo collaborates with independent consultant Prudence Brown and Della M. Hughes of the Center for Youth and Communities at Brandeis University to examine how a foundation prepares and evolves in real time while working toward community change. (The Skillman Foundation is pleased to share this report with the permission of Foundation Review.)

Categories: Models & Approaches, Organization Learning and Evaluation , Organizational Development - Strengthening/Building Your Team

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Foundation Readiness for Community Transformation: Learning in Real Time

This article describes the internal structures and processes adopted by The Skillman Foundation to support the iterative practice of “learning and doing” in the first phase of a rapidly evolving, ambitious community change enterprise in six Detroit neighborhoods. The foundation invested in its own and its partners’ capacity to learn in real time so that together they could adjust and readjust their strategies in response to initial results and, in doing so, deepen their working relationships and build further capacity for effective implementation. Challenges to supporting this learning culture included increased visibility and pressures to produce results and measurable outcomes, Read more

Categories: Grants Management, Organization Learning and Evaluation , Beyond the Grant , Organizational Development - Strengthening/Building Your Team

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Framework for Community Leadership by a Community Foundation

Recognizing that few guideposts existed for community foundations that want to be intentional about building their skills and aligning their organizations for community leadership, a group of philanthropy leaders – the National Task Force on Community Leadership – created this Framework. Built from actual community leadership experiences, it is the first effort to bring clarity to the practice of community leadership by community foundations. It allows community foundations to take stock, analyze options, develop strategies, and measure progress. It is a necessary first—and giant—step in creating a practical knowledge base.

Categories: Organization Learning and Evaluation , Beyond the Grant , Organizational Development - Strengthening/Building Your Team

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Framework for Connecticut’s Statewide System of Early Childhood State and Local Partnerships

The Connecticut Early Childhood Funder Collaborative, a project of the Connecticut Council for Philanthropy, brings national expertise to consider a new “Framework.” In 2015, Early Childhood Funder Collaborative (Collaborative) provided funding for the purpose of developing recommendations for an infrastructure connecting state child-serving agencies, especially the Office of Early Childhood, with local communities and communities with each other. The resulting report, Framework for Connecticut’s Statewide System of Early Childhood State and Local Partnerships, concludes with a set of recommendations for Connecticut Leaders to consider in creating a statewide network of local or regional early care and education partnerships. The recommended Read more

Categories: Organization Learning and Evaluation , Strategy and Evaluation

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Frameworks for Private Foundations: A New Model for Impact

This GrantCraft Leadership Series paper produced in partnership with Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, explores the core frameworks that shape private foundations, and offers a roadmap for funders interested in reflecting on these frameworks to better align purpose, public benefit, and action. This resource provides clear, practical guidance for funders looking to examine their organizational structures and strategize about their capacities and operations through discussion questions, action steps, and lessons from peers. It is intended to provide an accessible and actionable introduction of RPA’s Theory of the Foundation to a global funder audience.

Categories: Organization Learning and Evaluation 

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Gender Transformative Philanthropy A Key to Improving Program Outcome and Impact in At-Risk Communities

As foundations and other philanthropic institutions assess where they can maximize the social return on their charitable investments, many are looking at issues of gender norms and gender equity. To complicate matters further, in the US, where there’s often a widely held assumption that women and girls already enjoy full equality of rights, grantees may not see the need to have a gender analysis at all. Or if they do have one, it is marginalized. As one experienced program officer put it, “Grantees need to see gender and race together. Gender impacts every issue they work on. But grantees are Read more

Categories: Organization Learning and Evaluation , Strategy and Evaluation, Resources

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Getting to Impact Through Evaluation

Evaluation is key to increasing your impact, and, although evaluation may have been overwhelming or unproductive in the past, it doesn’t have to be going forward. This primer introduces you to simple, straightforward evaluation from start to finish so you can: Set the stage for evaluation at your foundation. Create a road map for your giving that will help you target an evaluation. Understand five key steps of evaluation: targeting, asking, tracking, learning, and using. Know where to turn for support when evaluating your work. Get started on the road toward even greater impact.

Categories: Organization Learning and Evaluation 

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Getting to Results: A Tool and Lessons from the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s K-12 Education Portfolio

In 2002, the Annie E. Casey Foundation adopted a results-based accountability (RBA) framework to track and report on the results of their philanthropic investments. The RBA tool was piloted in a few program areas, including its K-12 education portfolio. Grantees were highly engaged in an iterative process to determine appropriate measures, refine the theory of change, and how to track progress. Overall, the RBA tool enabled staff to get a sense of how grantees were doing and therefore how the foundation was doing in a way that hadn’t been possible before. The K-12 program got a much clearer sense of Read more

Categories: Organization Learning and Evaluation , Program Level Learning and Evaluation

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GMNsight: Ideas About Big Data

“This has been the crossover year for Big Data — as a concept, as a term and, yes, as a marketing tool. Big Data has sprung from the confines of technology circles into the mainstream.”  — The New York Times What Big Data is, and what it means for how grants are made, are key questions in philanthropy circles thanks to the explosion of data-minded collaborative projects like The Reporting Commitment. Are grantmakers using Big Data? How does a foundation begin its Big Data adventure? What about privacy concerns? Will focusing on numbers take the humanity out of philanthropy? GMNsight’s Spring 2013 Read more

Categories: Grants Management, Models & Approaches, Organization Learning and Evaluation , Standards, Codes, and Ethics, Program Level Learning and Evaluation, Beyond the Grant 

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Goal-Free Evaluation: An Orientation for Foundations’ Evaluations

Goal-free evaluation (GFE), in program evaluation, is a model in which the official or stated program goals and objectives are withheld or screened from the evaluator. Several obstacles must be overcome in persuading foundations and programs to consider GFE as a viable option, because both tend to view goal attainment as intuitively and inextricably linked to evaluation. This article presents the case for GFE as a perspective that belongs in a foundation’s toolbox. In particular, this article demonstrates GFE’s actual use, highlights aspects of its methodology, and details its potential benefits.

Categories: Organization Learning and Evaluation , Strategy and Evaluation

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Going Deeper: Can Investigative Reporters Add Value to Assessment and Evaluation?

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation supplemented its standard evaluation approach by engaging professional journalists to elaborate on evaluation findings. The resulting reports are more direct, even critical, than any prior Knight Foundation attempt to evaluate and assess. It produced deeper looks into the intent and outcome of major initiatives, analyzing and addressing flaws in the theories of change underlying initiatives. The goal of reaching external audiences was not achieved.

Categories: Organization Learning and Evaluation , Program Level Learning and Evaluation

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Good Neighborhoods, Good Schools, and The Skillman Foundation’s Strategy for Place‐based Change

This Foundation-commissioned white paper gives an overview and topline analysis of Good Neighborhoods, Good Schools, and the Skillman Foundation’s strategy for place‐based change. It provides background on the thinking behind the Foundation’s efforts and the context in which they occurred; synthesizes evaluators’’ findings on the successes and challenges that the Foundation encountered in that work between 2006‐2011; suggests opportunities and challenges that lie ahead in the second half of the Good Neighborhoods decade; and makes observations about the Foundation’s work that may have implications for the broader field of place‐based change.

Categories: Organization Learning and Evaluation 

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Grantmakers for Effective Organizations

GEO’s publications are driven by the issues we care about. We dive into specific topics and connect themes across the sector in short and longer works. Our publications elevate real examples from your peers, providing innovative ideas to your own organization. We also craft practical tools and friendly guides to help transform your knowledge into action. Our most popular resources: Shaping Culture Through Key Moments Strengthening Nonprofit Capacity The Source Codes of Foundation Culture To see learn more about our publications, explore our resource library. Members greatly value our publications because they lift up the experience, wisdom and insights of Read more




Investigating the Roles of Community Foundations in the Establishment and Sustainability of Local College Access Networks in Michigan

Community foundations have a long history of supporting college access, particularly through the management of scholarship programs. This article examines the role of community foundations in the creation and establishment of local college access networks (LCAN) across the state of Michigan. We use the collective impact model as a framework to examine the roles of community foundations in the creation and development of LCANs. Our findings illustrate that community foundations have played a variety of roles, from fundraising to convening to cheerleading. The success of the community-foundation approach to LCAN development is evident both in the interviews conducted and the Read more

Categories: Organization Learning and Evaluation 

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Jump Start Learning In Your Organization

Understanding how to build a culture of learning to support your staff can be challenging. Whether you are a small foundation just starting to develop a new approach to learning or you are a well-established grantmaker looking for fresh ideas, this free, 45-minute webinar will help you support learning in your organization. Click “Go To Resource” to listen to the webinar, or download the file to view the slides.

Categories: Organization Learning and Evaluation , Webinar

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KIDS COUNT Data Center

KIDS COUNT is a national and state-by-state project of the Casey Foundation to track the status of children in the United States. At the national level, the principal activity of the initiative is the publication of the annual KIDS COUNT Data Book, which uses the best available data to measure the educational, social, economic, and physical well-being of children state by state. The Foundation also funds a national network of state-level KIDS COUNT projects that provide a more detailed, county-by-county picture of the condition of children. By providing foundations, policymakers and citizens with benchmarks of child well-being, KIDS COUNT seeks Read more

Categories: Field/Sector Learning and Evaluation , Organization Learning and Evaluation , Issue Specific Grantmaking, Program Level Learning and Evaluation

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Lessons (Not Yet) Learned

Despite a significant influx of charitable dollars over the last 10 to 20 years, solutions to complex social problems remain elusive, while philanthropy has been facing growing pressure to account for its tax-free dollars; to demonstrate, replicate, and scale success; and to be transparent about failed social investments. When foundations and their nonprofit partners ignore a failure and move on, whether it is to protect their own reputation or the reputations of valued partners or simply because of the pressure to keep going, it is too easy to toss out the baby with the bathwater – to toss aside a Read more

Categories: Field/Sector Learning and Evaluation , Models & Approaches, Organization Learning and Evaluation , Standards, Codes, and Ethics

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Logic Model Builder

The Logic Model Builder helps you clarify the connection between what your program does and what it is trying to achieve. You’ll be guided through an interactive process of thinking about your program’s goals, rationale, activities, and resources, and how those elements work together to produce your intended outcomes. To access this resource, it is required to set up a free account through Innovation Network by following the link below: http://www.innonet.org/?module=register  

Categories: Organization Learning and Evaluation , Strategy and Evaluation, Resources

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Making Change Happen

Effective philanthropy is about the thoughtful creation of something new in the world. It harnesses rigor and strategy – as well as commitment and strength of heart – to build a practical path from donors’ ambitions to their desired impact. It starts with a philanthropist’s values and motivations, and moves through the careful, well-researched selection of appropriate goals until it produces its core element – a giving strategy. This strategy is hugely important because it dictates how a philanthropic investment will actually make change happen.  

Categories: Organization Learning and Evaluation , Strategy and Evaluation, Resources

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Making Data and Evaluation Work for Foundations and Nonprofits

This blogpost compares evaluation capacity within funding and nonprofit organizations. It suggests three things foundations (and nonprofits) can do to improve their ability to get more from evaluation: Ask grantees about their evaluation capacity; Consider data quality; and Support data and evaluation.  

Categories: Organization Learning and Evaluation , Strategy and Evaluation, Resources

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Making Measures Work For You: Outcomes and Evaluation

An outcomes-based approach to evaluation works, proponents say, because it uses straightforward metrics to assess actual impact. How else to know if the work you’re supporting is leading to the desired changes? Other grantmakers counter that outcomes measurement should be approached with care. Hasty assumptions or over-confidence in the idea that program impacts can be translated into hard data can skew not only the evaluation but the work itself. This guide looks at tensions that drive the debate about outcomes measurement, as well as common questions about its potential risks and rewards.

Categories: Organization Learning and Evaluation , Program Level Learning and Evaluation

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Many Hands, More Impact: Philanthropy’s Role in Supporting Movements

GEO has prepared a publication that provides a framework for understanding the array of roles that funders can play in supporting movements and networks. Many Hands, More Impact: Philanthropy’s Role in Supporting Movements offers an orientation to some of the inherent benefits and barriers to supporting movements and provides insight into ways that grantmakers can explore collaborative efforts for social change.

Categories: Grantmaking, Grants Management, Organization Learning and Evaluation 

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Mapping Change: Using a Theory of Change to Guide Planning and Evaluation

“What are we doing, and why do we think it’s going to make a difference? Are we being effective?” Grantmakers ask evaluation questions like these of their grantees and themselves. This brief guide explains why grantmakers use theories of change to guide their questioning, unearth assumptions that underlie their work, establish common language, and develop strong action plans. Contributors to the guide also describe how a theory of change sets the stage for evaluation by clarifying goals, strategies, and milestones.

Categories: Organization Learning and Evaluation , Program Level Learning and Evaluation

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Marguerite Casey Foundation: Reflecting on 15 Years of Philanthropic Leadership Through a Summative Evaluation

This article presents the findings of a summative evaluation of the Marguerite Casey Foundation that was conducted on the occasion of its 15th anniversary. The evaluation was designed to gauge stakeholders’ perceptions of the foundation’s operations to facilitate organizational learning. In sharing these results, the authors seek to elucidate the role of evaluation as a learning practice within the field of philanthropy.

Categories: Organization Learning and Evaluation , Strategy and Evaluation, Resources

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Measuring the Impacts of Advocacy and Community Organizing: Application of a Methodology and Initial Findings

The increasing emphasis by funders on strategic grantmaking and measurable outcomes may be a disincentive to support policy and advocacy work, because of the perception that outcomes can be difficult to assess. A tool for measuring impact can reduce the barriers to funding advocacy and policy work. The tool draws upon the literature on evaluating advocacy and organizing, social capital building efforts, and return on investment approaches to evaluation. The tool was applied in two sites, where funders found it useful to understand advocacy impacts and learn how advocacy can enhance their grantmaking goals.

Categories: Organization Learning and Evaluation , Program Level Learning and Evaluation, General Grants 

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Pathfinder Funder Edition: A Practical Guide to Advocacy Evaluation

Pathfinder is a practical guide to the advocacy evaluation process. This edition guides funders through the advocacy evaluation process from start to finish. Editions for advocates and evaluators are also available. Drawn from Innovation Network’s research and consulting experience, Pathfinder encourages the adoption of a “learning-focused evaluation” approach, which prioritizes using knowledge for improvement.

Categories: Field/Sector Learning and Evaluation , Organization Learning and Evaluation , Program Level Learning and Evaluation

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Philanthropy and Mistakes: An Untapped Resource

Sharing and leveraging lessons learned from mistakes is an important but underutilized resource to improve philanthropic investments and nonprofit performance. Philanthropic mistakes extend beyond the results of program evaluations to include questions of mission, role, investment strategies, and implementation. Distinguishing between “constructive” and “nonconstructive” mistakes focuses attention on those factors that shape the outcomes for even the most well-designed investments. Sharing and reflecting upon mistakes has the potential to improve philanthropic capacities for anticipation, learning, and adaptation. Philanthropy must recognize the sometimes blurry lines between success and failure, constructive and nonconstructive mistakes, and philanthropic and nonprofit sector accountability.

Categories: Field/Sector Learning and Evaluation , Organization Learning and Evaluation , Beyond the Grant 

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Philanthropy Lessons: The Many Forms of Evaluation

Evaluating impact can involve diverse data points, from tangible measures such as people served and dollars spent to less concrete aspects including lessons learned and challenges faced. Effective philanthropists embrace evaluation, understanding its dynamic and complex nature.

Categories: Organization Learning and Evaluation , Program Level Learning and Evaluation, Strategy and Evaluation

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Philanthropy, Evaluation, Accountability, and Social Change

Many foundations have substituted process accountability for accountability for contributing to social change. While process accountability is important, it sets a floor, not an aspirational ceiling. There are tools—such as risk analysis, systems approaches, and game theory—that can help philanthropy engage in work on complex social problems that cannot be deconstructed into a series of small, linear projects. Seeking to extend basic human rights to more individuals around the world, seeking to reduce racism in a given city, or seeking to change public health norms in small town—all of these aspirations require first a willingness to take on challenges that Read more

Categories: Models & Approaches, Organization Learning and Evaluation , Beyond the Grant , General Grants 

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PowerCheck: Community Organizing Capacity Tool

Supporting community organizing is key to developing movements where change is needed at local, national, and all levels. PowerCheck can help you understand the skills and readiness of your grantee, identify gaps and opportunities in your funding portfolio, focus resources where most needed, and assess grantee programs in their organizations.

Categories: Organization Learning and Evaluation , Strategy and Evaluation, Resources

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Practice, Practice, Practice: Preliminary Findings From an Evidence-Based Practice Funding Initiative at The Peter and Elizabeth C. Tower Foundation

The Tower Foundation supported a five-year initiative to support the implementation of evidence based practices (EBP). The average award was a three-year award of $84,050. The underlying grantmaking theory of change was that behavioral health providers could bring empirically tested protocols to their communities and sustain them over time if supported by long-term funding to support the real costs of implementation (e.g., training, technical assistance, adherence to program protocols, and cultural change). Grantees cited the high cost of training, certification, and recertification – especially in the face of high staff turnover – as a primary challenge to implementing EBPs. Several Read more

Categories: Organization Learning and Evaluation , Program Level Learning and Evaluation

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Project Streamline: Make Streamlining Stick

This framework illustrates the four basic phases that many grantmakers move through as they streamline and suggests activities and questions that can propel your process forward.

Categories: Grantmaking, Grants Management, Organization Learning and Evaluation 

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Project Streamline: Online Applications and Reporting

A groundswell of funders are putting their application and reporting processes online for the first time or moving to a second generation of online systems, both custom-built and off-the-shelf. This is a wonderful thing, but it needs to be done right. This guide offers a set of recommended practices and principles to improve and streamline the process of online grantmaking.

Categories: Grants Management, Field/Sector Learning and Evaluation , Organization Learning and Evaluation 

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Project Streamline: Right-Sizing Guide

Right-sizing is the concept that one size might not fit all when it comes to application and reporting. When grantmaking is right-sized, the information requirements are proportionate to the size of the grant, are appropriate to the type of grant, and take into consideration prior relationships with grantees.

Categories: Grantmaking, Grants Management, Field/Sector Learning and Evaluation , Organization Learning and Evaluation 

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Reframing Assessment of Grantee Perceptions: Reconsidering Effectiveness With Broader International Stakeholder Engagement

Stakeholder engagement is important in philanthropy because it allows grantmakers and grantees to pool their respective resources more effectively to address their shared target issues. As more and more foundations and other grantmaking entities venture into the expansive world of self-evaluation, it is prudent that these methods be examined in light of international funding relationships. In order to better understand how these tools and methods can be used internationally, we outline the opportunities presented when using frames as one basis for decision-making in complex situations. Using the hypothetical case of a U.S. funder seeking to understand grantee perception in East Read more

Categories: Grants Management, Organization Learning and Evaluation , Beyond the Grant 

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Responsive Philanthropy: Foundation Examines Its Practices Using Criteria for Philanthropy at Its Best

This issue of the quarterly journal looks at a leading San Francisco foundation that evaluated its own practices using “Criteria for Philanthropy at Its Best,” building the capacity of nonprofits serving older adults, updating nonprofit advocacy regulations, and a call to transform philanthropy.

Categories: Organization Learning and Evaluation , Standards, Codes, and Ethics

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Robert Wood Johnson Foundation 2007 Assessment Report

This assessment report examined our Foundation’s performance through an annual report to our Board of Trustees. This report tracks performance according to sound program development, measurable program impact, and solid customer service.

Categories: Organization Learning and Evaluation 

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Robert Wood Johnson Foundation 2008 Assessment Report

This assessment report examined our Foundation’s performance through an annual report to our Board of Trustees. This report tracks performance according to sound program development, measurable program impact, and solid customer service.

Categories: Organization Learning and Evaluation 

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Robert Wood Johnson Foundation 2009 Assessment Report

This assessment report examined our Foundation’s performance through an annual report to our Board of Trustees. This report tracks performance according to sound program development, measurable program impact, and solid customer service.

Categories: Organization Learning and Evaluation 

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Robert Wood Johnson Foundation 2011 Assessment Report

This assessment report examined our Foundation’s performance through an annual report to our Board of Trustees. This report tracks performance according to sound program development, measurable program impact, and solid customer service.

Categories: Organization Learning and Evaluation 

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Setting the record straight: debunking philanthropic myths

Although much has been written about ‘what donors believe’ and ‘how modern foundations work’, hard data about how private foundation donors view themselves, their roles, and the non-profits they support is relatively scarce. With almost 1,200 US-based private foundation clients, Foundation Source is well positioned to put some of the common assumptions about this sector to the test. Last November, we carried out a survey of our clients that debunked some of philanthropy’s most established axioms – especially those relating to foundation attitudes to non-profits.

Categories: History, Role in Society, Grantmaking, Organization Learning and Evaluation 

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State of Evaluation: Evaluation Practice and Capacity in the Nonprofit Sector

This publication includes recent findings (from 2016) about how nonprofits engage in evaluation, and the capacities and characteristics of their organizations.  

Categories: Organization Learning and Evaluation , Strategy and Evaluation, Resources

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Taking on New Roles to Address 21st Century Problems

In employing co-creation, the partnership established new structures and adopted processes that enabled a diverse group of individuals and entities to voluntarily contribute their skills, expertise, and resources to create a state level early childhood systems approach in Connecticut. This co-creation process also resulted in important transformations within the entities involved. For CCP, it was an opportunity to explore and test a new role and working structure in direct response to the evolving needs and desires within Connecticut’s philanthropic community. Over the last 47 years, CCP has functioned as a network of various types of philanthropic organizations. CCP connects grantmakers Read more

Categories: Field/Sector Learning and Evaluation , Organization Learning and Evaluation , Strategy and Evaluation

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The Center for High Impact Philanthropy Blog: How Can I Help?

In the wake of natural disasters, health crises, and violence donors often ask, “How Can I Help?” To shed some light on this question, we developed a blog series on a variety of different disaster relief and recovery topics.  

Categories: Field/Sector Learning and Evaluation , Organization Learning and Evaluation , Program Level Learning and Evaluation, Resources









The Colorado’s Trust’s Advocacy Funding Strategy: Lessons Learned for Funders of Advocacy Efforts

In an effort to help advance the field of advocacy and public policy funding, The Colorado Trust published this evaluation report as a joint effort between funder and evaluator, describing where they saw success, where they saw failure, and lessons learned along the way.

Categories: Field/Sector Learning and Evaluation , Organization Learning and Evaluation , Program Level Learning and Evaluation

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The Grantmaker’s Role in Theory of Change

Innovation Network developed these three introductory evaluation documents as part of Building Nonprofit Capacity to Evaluate, Learn, and Grow Impact, a workshop we presented in partnership with Grantmakers for Effective Organizations’ Scaling What Works initiative.

Categories: Grants Management, Field/Sector Learning and Evaluation , Organization Learning and Evaluation , Program Level Learning and Evaluation, Beyond the Grant 

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The Power to Produce Wonders: First Ever Report to Examine the Value of Family Participation in Philanthropy

Based on two years of research, this report is the first ever in-depth examination of the value of family philanthropy to the family, to communities and to democracy.

Categories: History, Role in Society, Grantmaking, Organization Learning and Evaluation , Program Level Learning and Evaluation

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The Real-Time Evaluation Memo: A Tool for Enabling Evaluative Thinking and Learning in Foundations and Nonprofits

Real-time evaluation memos provide data-based feedback in a timely manner to inform decision making. Memos must be concise and include both data and expert synthesis and interpretation. The foundation must have a learning culture if the memos are to most useful; there must be time to reflect on the content and implications. The balance between data quality and timeliness must be managed and will be dependent on the topic. While useful for program management, these memos do not provide the kind of summative information that board members and other stakeholders may require.

Categories: Organization Learning and Evaluation , Program Level Learning and Evaluation

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The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Approach to Evaluation

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has placed a high priority on program evaluation since its inception as a national philanthropy in 1972. It has developed a four-tiered system of evaluation that ranges from the evaluation of individual grants and clusters of grants to the qualitative assessments found in The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Anthology series.

Categories: Organization Learning and Evaluation 

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The Strategic Plan is Dead. Long Live Strategy.

Take a moment and read these two words: strategic plan. Now close your eyes and picture one. If what comes up is a thick binder, gathering dust on a shelf next to other thick binders from five and ten years past, you’re not alone. We believe that a better understanding of the history of strategy and what caused the demise of binder-bound strategic planning can point the way to re-inventing strategy for the world we live in today.

Categories: Organization Learning and Evaluation , Program Level Learning and Evaluation, Organizational Development - Strengthening/Building Your Team

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The Strategy Landscape

Given the scale and complexity of the challenges they face, foundations increasingly need to look beyond their organizations to other stakeholders–both in philanthropy and across sectors–to mobilize sufficient resources and effort to move the needle on pressing social problems. Yet working together remains a challenge: simply knowing what other funders are supporting can require time-consuming research, meetings, and calls. As one foundation executive recently explained, “When funders come together for a day to talk about an issue, we spend 80 percent of the time talking about what we do, which leaves us with only 20 percent of the day to Read more

Categories: Organization Learning and Evaluation , Program Level Learning and Evaluation, Organizational Development - Strengthening/Building Your Team

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Time to Evaluate! Getting to Assessment and High Performance

Nonprofit organizations — and foundations — talk a lot about accountability. And one of the best ways to be accountable is to demonstrate impact. While we would be hard pressed to think of a nonprofit organization that does not want to demonstrate impact, the all too true situation is that the vast majority of nonprofits struggle to do just that. At the heart of the problem are five practices that stymie nonprofit (and philanthropic) attempts to collect and use data to make important decisions, to improve outcomes, and ultimately to demonstrate impact.

Categories: Organization Learning and Evaluation , Strategy and Evaluation, Resources

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Top Blogs That Enhance Learning in Philanthropy

At LearnPhilanthropy we’ve started collecting things…especially resources to help grantmakers develop their skills. The collection below is a list of fifteen blogs in philanthropy that can enhance your philanthropic learning. Learning of various sorts is a frequent topic discussed in these blogs and we thought a list like this might help LearnPhilanthropy users start your own collection of blogs to track. White Courtesy Telephone’s posts include perspectives on learning, education and training in the field of philanthropy. Philantopic is a blog of Opinion and Commentary from The Philanthropy News Digest Lucy Bernholz’s blog Philanthropy 2173: The Business of Giving shares her opinions Read more

Categories: Field/Sector Learning and Evaluation , Organization Learning and Evaluation , Top 5 Lists









Trustee Evaluation Toolkit

Traditional approaches to foundation evaluation do not help trustees make informed strategic decisions. This toolkit offers new ways for trustees and foundations to better plan work, improve implementation and track progress toward goals.

Categories: Organization Learning and Evaluation , Strategy and Evaluation, Resources

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Use of Layering for Effective Partnership Building: Leveraging Positive Impact in Education Philanthropy

Federal initiatives provide opportunities to link national, state, and local partnerships. New opportunities create a challenge of how to maximize mission-related goals while also seeking out new partnerships. “Layering” allows core foundation goals to be addressed while further examining how building new partnerships can expand with national and federal opportunities. Each “layer” represents multiple sector partnerships at the local, state, federal, and national levels. Layering differs from collective impact in its focus on strategic alignment with existing work to new partners versus the focus on the partnerships and organizational behavior of those relationships. Building new partnerships with philanthropic, private, and Read more

Categories: Field/Sector Learning and Evaluation , Organization Learning and Evaluation 

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Using Community-Based Participatory Evaluation (CBPE) Methods as a Tool to Sustain a Community Health Coalition

Participatory evaluation has set the standard for cooperation between program evaluators and stakeholders. Coalition evaluation, however, calls for more extensive collaboration with the community at large. Integrating principles of community based participatory research and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s Strategic Prevention Framework, which guides much coalition work, into coalition evaluation has proved useful to foster community affiliations and support reciprocal relationship building. The resulting evaluation method, named community based participatory evaluation (CBPE), takes time, money, and skilled personnel but can lead to more accurate results and coalition sustainability. The CBPE method has proved essential in sustaining two Read more

Categories: Field/Sector Learning and Evaluation , Organization Learning and Evaluation 

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