A Practical Guide for Engaging Stakeholders in Developing Evaluation Questions

RWJF commissioned FSG Social Impact Advisors to develop a guide for program officers, grant recipients, evaluators, researchers, and others interested in evaluation on how to engage stakeholders in developing evaluation questions. Since stakeholders are potential users of evaluation findings, their input into the scope of the evaluation is critical to ensuring the integrity and value of evaluation results. This guide provides the reader with a five-step process for involving stakeholders in developing evaluation questions, and includes a set of four worksheets to facilitate this process.

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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

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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.

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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?

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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.

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Co-Creation: The Public Sector Perspective

This is the third paper in a series exploring the public-private partnership undertaken by the Connecticut Early Childhood Funder Collaborative, the Connecticut Council for Philanthropy, and the State of Connecticut. The series examines 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. This final paper, Co-Creation: The Public Sector Perspective, brings forward the perspective of those working within the public sector—specifically in the State of Connecticut—in Read more

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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.

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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.

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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. Community Leadership Networks (CLNs) are action-oriented, cumulative, peer-learning networks for groups of community foundations that want to work together to improve their practice of community leadership. CLNs provide sustained forums for groups of 6–12 community foundation teams to work together to build their capacity, explore new approaches and share promising practices. Each team has 2–6 participants consisting of the CEO and at least one board member. The CLN is Read more

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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.

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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.  

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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

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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.

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Jump Start Learning In Your Organization – Webinar

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. Listen to the webinar, or download the slides.

Categories: Organization Learning and Evaluation , Webinar

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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

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Leveraging Grant-Making—Part 2: Aligning Programmatic Approaches With Complex System Dynamics

The purpose of this two-part article is to enable foundations to increase the leverage of their grantmaking resources by working effectively with the dynamics of complex social systems. This article examines how foundations can align planning, implementation, and evaluation efforts with the behavior of the social systems they seek to improve. Asking powerful questions of staff, board, grantees, and other stakeholders helps to transform how they think about their goals and strategies. In addition to using the power of questioning, foundations function more systemically by suspending their assumptions about their effectiveness and what is possible, creating the cultural shifts needed, Read more

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Leveraging Grantmaking: Understanding the Dynamics of Complex Social Systems

The nonobvious interrelationships among elements in a complex system often thwart people’s best intentions to sustainably improve system performance. The complex, nonlinear problems that most foundations address can be solved most effectively by thinking systemically instead of linearly about these problems. Systems thinking offers a range of analytic tools to improve our capacity to think systemically, including ways to distinguish problem symptoms from root causes, reinforcing and balancing feedback, system archetypes, mental models, and system purpose and goals. Applying these tools enables us to target high leverage interventions that can lead to sustainable, system-wide improvement. These tools can be applied Read more

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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.

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Organizational Learning at The Skillman Foundation

This report evaluates how The Skillman Foundation’s work practices and culture, and its relationship with its core intermediaries, supports the Foundation’s aspiration to be a high-performance learning organization.

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Philanthropy, Evaluation, Accountability, and Social Change

Key points: 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 Read more

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Readiness for Evaluation and Learning: Assessing Grantmaker and Grantee Capacity

This tool will provide you with questions of readiness. What is the existing evaluation practice of my organization or program? What is the existing evaluation capacity of my organization or program?

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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.

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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.

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When and How to use External Evaluators

In March 2002 we presented this material at the national conference of Grantmakers for Effective Organizations (GEO), Capacity Building for Impact: The Future of Effectiveness for Nonprofits and Foundations. Our session, titled “When and How to Use External Evaluators,” was designed for program officers fairly new to evaluation who might be called upon to advise grantees about contracting an external evaluator or to directly commission evaluations on behalf of their foundations. We hoped to impart some of the skills and lessons we have learned through our own experiences with incorporating evaluation into a foundation setting.

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