“I have the report- now what?” 7 Questions to Ask When Reading Program Evaluations

Program evaluations provide answers to a key question: “Did this program work in a particular population and setting?” For funders who haven’t been trained in reading evaluations, wading through such reports can be confusing and time-consuming. So, to get the most out of program evaluations, here are 7 questions to ask when reading them.

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

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5 Tips for Community Building through Digital Inclusion

Digital inclusion builds capacity of neighborhood leaders who acquire new digital literacy skills, devices, or internet access, strengthens relationships between neighborhoods, and engages the community through online organizing. Every local context will require a unique approach. However, here are some tips based on experiences at the Housing Partnership that can help get you started.

Categories: Strategic Philanthropy, Strategy and Evaluation, Resources

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6 Steps to Evaluating your Program

This tool will help you to create an accurate process for documenting and evaluating the entire effort.

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

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A Hedgehog Moment: The Roles and Pitfalls of Strategic Philanthropy for Family Foundations and Donors

The growing quantity of giving has not been matched by improved quality. The growth in the quantity of new philanthropy and the search for more effective philanthropy has now produced a “significant moment in the marketization of philanthropy.” A recent outpouring of books by foundation officials, consultants and academics has broadly emphasized the idea that “strategic philanthropy” in some form promises significant improvements. With these books, then, do donors, family foundations, and philanthropy generally have new usable knowledge to meet the challenge of quality grantmaking?

Categories: Strategic Philanthropy, Strategy and Evaluation, Resources

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A Self-reflection Tool for Black Trustees on Foundation Boards

ABFE brings a point of view: Black trustees who sit at tables of power and influence have a unique opportunity to significantly influence outcomes for Black communities by “leveraging the trust” that they hold as trustees. A companion to ABFE’s Responsive Philanthropy in Black Communities: A Framework and Agenda for Change, this tool discusses the unique role of Black trustees and opportunities for reflection as they fulfill their roles.  ABFE encourages the use of this tool as a way to make a difference for Black communities.

Categories: Strategy and Evaluation, Equitable Evaluation, Resources

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Activating the Power of Place: A Case Study of Market Creek

This article tells the story of a placed-based initiative to develop well-being and wealth in the historically underserved Diamond Neighborhood in San Diego, and discusses the place-based philosophy of the Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovation and the foundation’s motivation for place-based work. Its theory of change is presented through examples, along with the entry points the foundation chose for engagement and how it developed community capacity to engage effectively in this change work. The article also discusses plans to transition ownership to the Diamond Neighborhood community when the foundation sunsets in 2030.

Categories: Issue Specific Grantmaking, Program Level Learning and Evaluation, Strategy 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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Alliance Breakfast Club – How much influence does philanthropy have?

Foundation professionals, academics, and NGOs discuss the nature of philanthropic influence and what limits, if any, should be imposed. Discussions are presented in three videos.

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

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Alliance Breakfast Club- Markets for good: removing the barriers

In this video, the participants are discussing why so few market-based solutions to poverty are getting to scale, what can be done so they can deliver meaningful benefits to the poor, and more.

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

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An Assessment of Capacity Building in Washington State

An assessment of capacity building in Washington State and one of the first frameworks for understanding community capacity. This study looks at capacity building from a strategic, statewide perspective and provides a framework for thinking systematically about capacity-building investments at a state or community level; an assessment of the capacity building landscape; and opportunities for investment in: Capacity-building at the individual nonprofit level – grants directly to nonprofits, or through local intermediaries with particular emphasis on small- and mid-sized organizations. Strengthening the nonprofit ecosystems of specific local communities – through grants to local capacity-building institutions, or by convening local partners to identify/prioritize weak or missing elements Read more

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

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As the South Grows: On Fertile Soil

From her desk at the Selma Center for Nonviolence, Truth & Reconciliation, Executive Director Ainka Jackson can see the Edmund Pettus Bridge stretched across the Alabama River. The bridge carries Highway 80 from Selma upstream to Montgomery across farms so fertile that King Cotton and stolen labor once made Selma the wealthiest city in Alabama. Now, it is among the poorest. In 1965, the bridge was the site of widely broadcasted and morally electrifying moments in the Civil Rights Movement, making it a lasting symbol of the power of nonviolent resistance to oppression. Now Selma suffers from one of the Read more

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

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Beldon Fund Final Impact Assessment

This final impact assessment provides an inventory of Beldon’s legacy, five years after its grantmaking ended. It tells the story of a foundation that brought innovative ideas to its grantees, built capacity and infrastructure, and planted seeds that continue to bear fruit. As a spend-out foundation, it struggled with challenges that other spend outs share, and the lessons learned from this assessment are intended to help others embarking on similar paths.

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

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Benchmarking Evaluation in Foundations: Do We Know What We Are Doing?

Evaluation in philanthropy – with staff assigned to evaluation-related responsibilities – began in the 1970s and has evolved, along with philanthropy, in the four decades since. What has not changed, however, is a regular questioning of what foundations are doing on evaluation, especially since the world of philanthropy regularly shifts, and changes in evaluation resourcing and positioning tend to soon follow. This article presents new findings about what foundations are doing on evaluation and discusses their implications. It is based on 2012 research that benchmarks the positioning, resourcing, and function of evaluation in foundations, and follows up on a 2009 Read more

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

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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 the NPR Crowd: How Evaluation Influenced Grantmaking at the California Council for the Humanities

This article describes an initiative designed to engage a broad cross section of Californians in the humanities. Initial findings from book reading groups were that participants were predominantly white, middle-aged women. Changing the type of programming to include poetry slams, photography, digital media, and writing programs broadened participation of various ages and ethnic groups. The location of the program also made a difference, with schools and community-based organizations drawing more diverse audiences than libraries.

Categories: Strategy and Evaluation, Equitable Evaluation, Resources

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Big Issues, Many Questions

What it takes for a foundation to be effective is difficult to master, yet timeless. At the same time, however, there are current trends that foundation leaders and boards must pay attention to if they want to be as effective as possible. In this essay, Big Issues, Many Questions, CEP President Phil Buchanan explores the five most pressing issues facing U.S. foundations in 2016. From growing dissatisfaction with the so-called establishment to embracing collaboration and aligned action, these are the trends that foundation CEOs and boards cannot overlook or ignore.

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

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Breaking Down Creative Placemaking

What exactly is creative placemaking? The simple answer is any artistic or creative effort to make a particular community stronger. There are literally hundreds of communities carrying out creative placemaking projects across the U.S. – and countless more around the world. Here are two particularly strong examples.

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

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Breaking Up Is Hard to Do

  Funding relationships begin, and they end. Yet little is known about the effects of foundation exits on the work, the grantees, and the related fields. This article draws on interviews with funders and grantees involved in more than a dozen exits to fill the gaps in what is known about how to exit well. The article discusses four areas where foundation exits present particular challenges and where there are significant opportunities to improve practice — deciding on and planning to exit, funder leadership, clear communication, and final grants — and includes summaries of advice from funder and grantee perspectives.

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

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Breakthroughs in Shared Measurement and Social Impact

Many social enterprises focus on measuring the success of individual grants and nonprofit initiatives. This traditional approach to measuring results neglects the reality that no single organization alone can solve the scale of today’s social challenges. This research highlights 20 social enterprises that developed innovative and coordinated web-based approaches to evaluate their impact across multiple grants and stakeholders.

Categories: Field/Sector Learning and Evaluation , Strategy 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 and Restoring Civic Capacity: The Obama Administration’s Federal-Local Partnership with Detroit

This report focuses on what the partnership contributed to Detroit’s revitalization efforts and how it helped build local capacity. Initiatives and projects detailed in the report in which The Kresge Foundation was involved include the Blight Task Force, the Detroit Home Mortgage program, creation of the city’s global engagement strategy and attracting support for sustainable recreation at Historic Fort Wayne.

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

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Building and Supporting Sustainable Fields: Views from Philanthropy

This paper defines a field, provides examples of how funders build fields, lists the elements of a strong field, and discusses effective donor practices to promote sustainable fields.  The paper concludes with questions that can help to assess field strengths and needs, and a discussion of the best time to exit a field.

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

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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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Building the Capacity of Networks to Achieve Systems Change

Networks have historically played an essential role in promoting progress in areas such as social justice, political reform, environmental protection, and public health. Foundations are increasingly recognizing the power of networks and looking for strategies to help networks achieve their potential. The most common strategies are: a) convene a new network around a mission in line with the foundation’s interests, or b) make grants to an existing network whose interests align with the foundation’s. Each strategy has practical limitations. This paper analyzes an alternative strategy developed by the Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation (MRBF). In addition to providing networks with grants, Read more

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

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Catalytic Philanthropy

The idea behind catalytic philanthropy can be traced to one of FSG’s very first articles, “Philanthropy’s New Agenda: Creating Value” (Harvard Business Review, 1999). In that piece, they noted that funders have a variety of options—beyond their grant dollars—to create social change. To determine the best interventions and roles for them to play, foundations need to develop clear strategies based on data and well-defined goals.

Categories: Strategic Philanthropy, Strategy and Evaluation, Resources

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CFLeads White Paper: Community Foundations and Community Leadership

This white paper explores the imperatives – both market and moral – for a community foundation to embrace community leadership.

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

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Changing in Place: The Skillman Foundation, Detroit, and the Good Neighborhoods Initiative — How did a hometown grantmaker conduct and conclude its largest-ever initiative?

The initiative concluded in 2016, ultimately spanning 11 years and involving $122 million in grants, which represented 67 percent of the Foundation’s total grant spending in this time frame. Along the way, the foundation reset its strategy and sharpened its goal — in response to seismic shifts in the local context and informed by indicators of progress. To capture information on the unique challenges facing an embedded funder as it changes program direction, Bob Tobin, senior consultant at Williams Group, interviewed Marie Colombo, Skillman Foundation director for strategic evaluation and learning.

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

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Climate Adaptation – The State of Practice in U.S. Communities

This executive summary of the report that examined efforts to develop and implement climate-adaptation projects in 17 cities across the U.S. includes findings to key questions, conclusions, and tactical recommendations.    

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

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Co-Creation Resources

“Co-Creation” is a case study about the Connecticut Early Childhood Funder Collaborative, a project of the Connecticut Council for Philanthropy. The case study, written by Patricia Bowie, examines co-creation, an emerging systems change collaboration model which grew out of a funder-and-state partnership. This unique partnership led to the creation by executive order of a new and independent Office of Early Childhood, which was formally approved by the Connecticut State Legislature in 2013. The new case study is significant, as there is much written about funder partnerships and collaboration success stories, but little discussion on different kinds of collaborative ventures and Read more

Categories: Strategy and Evaluation

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Co-Creation: Viewing Partnerships Through A New Lens

Collaboration remains an on-going discourse throughout the funder community, but little has been written about explorations or innovations into different ways of working collectively, beyond what was established decades ago. For large-scale systems change, co-creation may be a more fitting approach; it acknowledges self-interest, existing alongside shared goals and purpose, as necessary to sustain voluntary efforts. Co-creation is predicated on the notion that traditional topdown planning or decision-making should give way to a more flexible participatory structure, where diverse constituencies are invited in to collectively solve problems. This case study examines the partnership of the Connecticut Early Childhood Funder Collaborative, the Read more

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

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Come On In, The Water’s Fine: An Exploration of Web 2.0 Technology and Its Emerging Impact on Foundation Communications

Foundations that have adopted new and still emerging forms of digital communications—interactive Web sites, blogs, wikis, and social networking applications—are finding that they offer “opportunities for focused convenings and conversations, lend themselves to interactions with and among grantees, and are an effective story-telling medium.” Acknowledging that adoption of new media tools will require some cultural and operational shifts in foundations, the report urges foundations to: Build up the individual “human capital” of their staffs and provide them the competencies they need to operate in the new digital world. Make internal institutional reforms to reward creativity and innovation in using these Read more

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

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Data Playbook

A Measured Approach. For purpose-driven organizations, data means more than just numbers and graphs — it is about understanding what more you can do to change lives and strengthen communities. The Data Playbook is designed to help you make sense of the data you already have and to build upon it. In it, you will learn about what data you need; how best to collect it; how to analyze it to meet your needs; how to present it; and how to use it to inform your work and tell your story. Whether you are looking for guidance on how to Read more

Categories: Strategic Philanthropy, Strategy and Evaluation, Resources

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Defining, Building, and Measuring Capacity: Findings From an Advocacy Evaluation

This article reports on results from Mathematica Policy Research’s evaluation of Consumer Voices for Coverage, a program funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to support the role of consumer health advocacy coalitions in 12 states. The foundation based the program on a study that identified six core advocacy capacities, and designed it to strengthen these capacities. The evaluation found that the level of funding, substantial and targeted technical assistance, and the three-year time frame of the program contributed to the observed increases in five capacities. Fundraising remained the lowest-rated capacity for most of the coalitions and may require different Read more

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

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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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End-Game Evaluation: Building a Legacy of Learning In a Limited-Life Foundation

Few, if any, of the problems philanthropy seeks to address can be solved within a brief, defined time frame. Limited-life foundations can only strive to move the ball down the field before they sunset, and then enlist others to carry the work forward. This article shares the emerging hypotheses of two foundations, The Atlantic Philanthropies and the S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation — each four years from sunset — about the opportunities and challenges for evaluation in the limited-life context. The article argues that systematically capturing and sharing knowledge — about programs, as well as social-change methods and grantmaking practices Read more

Categories: Field/Sector 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 at Sunset: Considerations When Evaluating a Program as It Concludes

This article uses the evaluation of the Orfalea Foundation’s initiative to provide a case example of a rigorous and useful sunset evaluation, and discusses other possible extensions of these kinds of methods.

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

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Exiting From Large-Scale Initiatives: Lessons and Insights From a National Scan of Philanthropy

This article shares insights and lessons from a research project commissioned by The California Endowment in early 2016 to inform the planning for its transition out of Building Healthy Communities. A guiding framework for exit and sustainability planning is presented as a set of recommendations that relate to issues such as managing relationships between funder and grantee partners during the exit, using the initiative’s theory of change as a tool for decision-making, finding a balance between demonstrable success and equity, and managing the internal processes of the funding organization.

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

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Foundations as Network Strategists, Weavers, and Managers: Learning From One Foundation’s Journey and Results

This article shares insights from a five-year evaluation of the Oral Health 2020 network, an effort by the DentaQuest Foundation to align and strengthen efforts in service of a national movement to improve oral health. The evaluation helped to place the foundation’s journey in the context of a broader field seeking new approaches to achieve deep and sustainable social change.

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

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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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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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Giving in Challenging Times

The Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors released a guide called “Giving in Challenging Times,” in 2008. They followed up ten years later with this blog post and recommended that donors take their time to carefully “review, recalibrate, and recommit” – an approach that also makes sense now.

Categories: Strategic Philanthropy, Strategy and Evaluation, Resources

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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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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




Greater Influence, More Impact

Influence can be one of the most important tools for impact. Here are five steps for organizations — foundations or otherwise — to build their own strategy.

Categories: Strategic Philanthropy, Strategy and Evaluation, Resources

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Grey Matter(s): Embracing the Publisher Within

This article reflects on the role that foundations play as publishers of grey literature and on the great potential for improved learning if foundations were to adopt more intentional and shared approaches to this dimension of their work.

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

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Guide to Impact Investing

This Grantmakers in Health update to their 2011 GIH Guide to Impact Investing shows the growth of the impact investment field, case studies of recent innovative investment techniques and projects, and an appendix on terminology, investment portfolio approaches, and strategies for financing impact investments.

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

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Ideas 42 Report: Nudging for Student Success

Breaking Barriers to Postsecondary Education:  Ideas 42 issued a report in June 2016, sponsored in part by The Kresge Foundation, that presented 16 case studies based on behavioral science that shows how subtle, sometimes hidden barriers can, over time, result in a student not completing a postsecondary degree.

Categories: Field/Sector Learning and Evaluation , Issue Specific Grantmaking, Strategy and Evaluation, Resources

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Impact investing in a democracy: A response to ‘Markets for Good: removing the barriers’

In the recent Alliance special feature, ‘Markets for good: removing the barriers’, we had not just one article but several from around the globe about social impact investing. It’s a joy to think that the field is now at a point that such an esteemed and diverse group of contributors can come together and debate the issues raised by Monitor Inclusive Markets’ report Beyond the Pioneer: Getting inclusive industries to scale. For me one big issue the report raises is the role of government vis-à-vis impact investing in addressing social problems.

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

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Influences of Venture Philanthropy on Nonprofits’ Funding: The Current State of Practices, Challenges, and Lessons

This article looks at the current state of venture philanthropy practices in the nonprofit sector, based on data from a survey of 124 nonprofits that engage in venture philanthropy. The survey probes to what degree nonprofit funders are implementing core activities of venture philanthropy – use of market-based funding instruments, providing strategic assistance, board participation, and use of social and financial performance criteria. Seven venture philanthropy organizations were also interviewed for this article. Various tactics they have used to mitigate internal and external tensions are examined, including complying with diverse interests to balance conflicting views if internal tension is moderate Read more

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

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Interview with Carol Civita, Brazilian philanthropist

A disposition to give is not the same as a culture of philanthropy, argues Brazilian philanthropist Carol Civita. Brazil has always had the one but still lacks the other, she tells Caroline Hartnell. Part of the problem is that Brazilians see social problems as the government’s business, but in her view the country needs partnerships between the public sector and private philanthropy if social development is to catch up with economic development. But foundations are beginning to talk to each other, she says, a big step forward.

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

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Investing in New Orleans

This report tells an important story of the positive role philanthropy can play in developing new communities and affordable housing. The effort of reshaping post-Katrina New Orleans was part of what Casey calls “responsible redevelopment,” the activities and support services required to make the rebuilding process successful for low-income families and their kids through economic development and community action. The paper distills insights from the Foundation’s experience that may be useful to philanthropies and their partners in other places.

Categories: Types of Grants, Strategy and Evaluation, Grantmaking and Changemaking

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LearnPhilanthropy’s Real Simple Taxonomy

By: Dara Major, Philanthropy Consultant Good content needs a good search – but sometimes a simple keyword search is not enough to produce the result a user seeks. That’s where a taxonomy comes in: a taxonomy is a classification or categorization system that groups similar items into broad topics or buckets. A taxonomy can help to organize knowledge “at a glance,” describe concepts not found directly in the content, and includes terms, categories and keywords. LearnPhilanthropy has developed a Real Simple Taxonomy, created with extensive testing and feedback at each stage (and ongoing) by dozens of grantmakers and others across Read more

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

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Leveraging Social Sector Leadership

Strong leadership is critical for effective social sector organizations, yet the sector chronically underinvests in its leaders. What do social sector leaders need to help them succeed and, just as importantly, stay in the sector? What can grantmakers do to support these leaders? This publication synthesizes findings from new research conducted by the authors and offers recommendations for grantmakers.

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

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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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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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NFF Capital Partners Portfolio Performance Report 2011: Philanthropic Equity in Action

This report analyzes the role of philanthropic equity in the nonprofit sector, results generated to-date by philanthropic equity investments, and key challenges to developing a robust capital marketplace for philanthropic equity.  

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

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Offshore philanthropy

Organized philanthropy exists because a few individuals are able to accumulate a vast surplus of resources. Given how much good is done with philanthropic donations, it seems ungrateful to look too closely at the source of that money. Yet recent financial data leaks, including the Panama Papers and the earlier HSBC Swiss Files, act like glasses for the myopic—they bring into focus one of the wealth management practices that enables private individuals to hold on to resources. Moreover, a number of named individuals are well-known philanthropic donors. With these revelations, the sector should look hard at the uncomfortable ways in Read more

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

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Partnership With Government: An Exit Strategy for Philanthropies?

Atlantic Philanthropies’ exit strategy involved a formal partnership arrangement with the Northern Ireland Assembly. This article draws on qualitative data gathered through interviews with key stakeholders — the funder, government officials, and NGOs — and considers the consequences of this approach for sustaining and mainstreaming policies and practices. It also offers both specific and general lessons on partnering with government as an exit strategy.

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

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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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Professional Societies and Climate Change

This report gives an analysis of how urban-focused professional societies are integrating climate change into their member engagement activities.    

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

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Program for Philanthropy and Fundraising

The George H. Heyman, Jr. Program for Philanthropy and Fundraising at NYU’s School of Professional Studies offers courses and intensive study options for fundraisers and grantmakers, professional development, and conferences and events designed to provide information on the latest industry trends and developments.

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

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Real Results: Why Strategic Philanthropy is Social Justice Philanthropy

The crises affecting our nation and the world have prompted philanthropists to become more organized, focused and, perhaps above all, “strategic” in their efforts. The movement toward “strategic philanthropy” has already contributed to greater philanthropic effectiveness. Yet, despite important contributions to education, health, the arts and the environment, it is clear that philanthropy’s ultimate impact is still limited. Great disparities along the lines of race, gender, class and other identity markers persist and, in some cases, are even exacerbated. This suggests that something is missing from our sector’s understanding of what makes for truly strategic and effective philanthropy: A clear understanding Read more

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

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Shifting Winds: Foundations Respond to a New Political Context

CEP surveyed foundation leaders about their reactions to the shift in presidential administrations, and the degree to which they were making changes as a result. The report reveals that the reactions and responses of U.S. foundations to the shift in national political context vary widely, but most foundations are changing their practices or shifting their emphases.

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

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Should I Stay or Should I Go? Exit Strategies for Foundations

This editorial blog introduces a special issue of The Foundation Review on Exit Strategies. Foundations of various sizes and geographic foci share what they have learned about exiting with grace and impact.  

Categories: Strategic Philanthropy, Strategy and Evaluation, Resources

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Should we be afraid?

At the end of last October, David Callahan, editor of the Inside Philanthropy blog, posted his five ‘scariest’ trends in philanthropy. Callahan’s ‘trends’ all relate to philanthropy in the US. Are these specifically US trends, we wondered, or are they happening more widely? In either event, how scary are they? We asked a number of observers from around the world – from India, Mexico, the Philippines, Portugal, Russia, South Africa and the UK – for their reactions. In spite of Callahan’s injunction to ‘be afraid’, few of them seem inclined to quake in their boots, even where they see similar tendencies Read more

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

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Solutions for Impact Investors: From Strategy to Implementation

In this publication, Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors highlight some of the areas in which behavioral economics and innovative organizational and legal structures can be applied to the discipline of impact investing. By describing best practices in transparency, disclosure and rigorous decision making, they also hope to bridge the divide between traditional and social purpose investing.  

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

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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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Strengthening the Human Services Sector

The Human Services sector finds itself today in an environment of profound change. The demography of our nation is being reconfigured. Technologies are being reinvented almost daily. The size and structure of governmental supports are in flux, as are governmental regulations. Our organizations face growing for-profit competition, expanded capital requirements, increasing donor expectations and, on the part of many would-be public supporters, an unsettling degree of “compassion fatigue.” Moreover, as one thought leader pointed out, all of these trends are here to stay. To examine these and other concerns, The Kresge Foundation held a symposium with leaders of national networks Read more

Categories: Field/Sector 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 Future of Foundation Philanthropy: The CEO Perspective

At a time of growing concern over issues like inequality and access to education, increasing anxiety about climate change, and rising levels of distrust in institutions, foundation leaders are considering their role in addressing society’s challenges. When they look in the mirror and reflect on the current state of foundation philanthropy and the future ahead, are they pleased with what they see? Based on the perspectives of more than 200 foundation CEOs collected through in-depth interviews and responses to a survey from May to June of 2016, The Future of Foundation Philanthropy: The CEO Perspective captures foundation leaders’ views on Read more

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

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The Legacy of a Philanthropic Exit: Lessons From the Evaluation of the Hewlett Foundation’s Nuclear Security Initiative

Although time-bound philanthropic initiatives are a well-established practice, there is still much to learn about effective ways to implement, evaluate, and wind down these types of investments. This open-access article describes the NSI evaluation, how the findings informed Hewlett’s philanthropic approach, and provides a case example of a philanthropic-initiative exit. Key considerations for monitoring and evaluation practices particular to the context of a planned exit are discussed.

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

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The Philanthropy As One Big Impact Investment: A Framework For Evaluating A Foundation’s Blended Performance

This article proposes a framework for evaluating a foundation’s blended performance that enables both grantmaking and endowment investing to be evaluated jointly, and thus also allows a complete evaluation of how impact investments could improve — or fail to improve — overall performance.

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

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The Social and Economic Impacts of Healthy Food Financing

Launched in July 2011 by a broad coalition of public and private partners led by the California Endowment, the $273 million California FreshWorks program provides loans and grants to grocery stores, farmers’ markets, and other food retailers that offer nutritious, affordable food options in communities where such options are scarce. In order to better understand the California FreshWorks program’s food access, social, and economic impact to date, the California Endowment commissioned the first-ever third-party evaluation of the program. The evaluation also sought to document key challenges and lessons from the development and implementation of FreshWorks.  

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

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Through the Looking Glass: Foundation Evaluation and Learning and the Quest for Strategic Learning

This article addresses different models that foundations use to establish staff evaluation and learning functions, what other organizational considerations they should take into account in order to prioritize strategic-learning work, and what tools and approaches can be used to initiate strategic learning. Interviews with officers from more than a dozen foundations revealed that strategic learning does not require wholesale structural and cultural change; an incremental approach, instead, can phase in greater complexity as foundations expand staff capacity. The interviews also uncovered several areas where further exploration of system building and practice at foundations has potential for advancing the field.

Categories: Strategy and Evaluation, Resources

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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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Tips for Evaluating Advocacy A Checklist for Grantmaking Organizations

This checklist will keep you on track for effective evaluation of advocacy.

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

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Too Good to be True? The Opportunity and Cost of the $1 Building

A study commissioned by The Kresge Foundation’s Arts & Culture Program finds that arts organizations have experienced a wide range of outcomes when acquiring low-cost or free buildings, also known as “$1 buildings.” In many cases, the actual costs of acquiring such buildings were much higher than organizations anticipated, according to the study, conducted by Boston-based Technical Development Corp.

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

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TRANSformational Impact: U.S. Foundation Funding for Trans Communities

In the last decade, U.S. foundation funding for domestic and global trans issues increased more than eight fold – growing at three times the rate of LGBTQ funding overall. However, even at its record high of $8.3 million in 2013, the philanthropic resources provided hardly seem commensurate with the severe challenges global trans communities continue to face. TRANSformational Impact analyzes the scope and character of foundation funding for trans issues.

Categories: Strategy and Evaluation, Equitable Evaluation, Resources

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Trends in Family Philanthropy

Family foundations are changing. Many of us have been noticing the changes anecdotally for years. We’ve seen an influx of new organizations, new ideas and new approaches that are ushering the practice of family philanthropy into a new era. National Center for Family Philanthropy’s 2015 Trends Study provides data to support these observations.

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

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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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Understanding Software for Program Evaluation

In our increasingly data-driven world, nonprofits need more than ever to be able to measure and monitor the effectiveness of their programs. It’s difficult to improve program services or reach without first measuring current effectiveness. How many meals served at a soup kitchen, the number of students in a mentoring program who graduate high school, the percent of the target population without access to affordable housing—such numbers help organizations identify the areas where they can improve their programs. Like many big-data issues, the sector looks to technology to help with program evaluation. We have donor management databases, case management systems, Read more

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

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What Are We Talking About When We Talk About Impact?

Everybody’s talking about it. Individual donors, foundations, impact investors, and nonprofits all say they want it. But what do they all mean? This analysis examines the different ways people are using the term and the implicit assumptions that can prevent progress. It ends with the 3 key questions that enable donors to cut through the noise and stay on the path to making the positive difference in the world they seek. Although helpful to all donors interested in practicing high impact philanthropy, the analysis offers specific examples related to addressing the needs of women and girls, thanks to our collaboration Read more

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

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Why funding research is not enough

Over ten years, Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA) has run more than 350 studies in 51 countries to find what works in alleviating poverty. They have had some success in influencing policies of governments, NGOs, foundations and others. Here’s what they have found.

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

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