Reinventing The Wheel No More: Actions every philanthropic professional can take to increase the impact of evaluation and learning

  • By Funder & Evaluator Affinity Network, April 22, 2021

Over the past four years, an informal network of nearly 400 Funder Evaluator Affinity Network (FEAN) members have engaged in dialogue and crowd-sourced solutions to build the shared capacity of philanthropic evaluators – individual evaluators, firms, and foundation professionals with programmatic and evaluation roles.

Operating under the core belief that evaluation and learning professionals are critical partners in advancing knowledge and strategy to drive social change more effectively, FEAN members adopted the principle of idea diffusion to shift field practice. FEAN arose because both funders and evaluators saw some core ideas about our field shifting—high demand for evaluation coupled with changes in how evaluation is defined; new talent needs, especially for more and better supported evaluators of color; and new opportunities to position evaluation for effective learning and decision-making in philanthropy.

As an informal network, FEAN’s greatest asset has been the act of bringing people together to encourage one-another to act upon our respective spheres of influence, and this has only deepened as we have navigated the pandemic and our national racial justice reckoning.

Today we preview for you the Call to Action Series co-developed by nearly 100 foundation and evaluation professionals and invite you to join our field-shifting effort. With the Call to Action series, we are moving to the next and final stage of the network —sharing as broadly as possible the resources produced by FEAN’s membership, generating and encouraging discussion and action around these urgent issues, and creating space for new and diverse leaders to continue to advance the field of philanthropic evaluation. To continue to test our approach to field change, we need YOU. We need you to take these resources, review them, critique them, and adopt them into your practice.

  • Are you having a hard time aligning your strategy with what you have learned from past efforts? We have a set of tools for that!
  • Homogeneity of evaluation professionals? Yup ….we have tools for that!
  • Sitting on a trove of knowledge but not sure how to share it with stakeholders outside your foundation?
  • Thinking about how to connect your philanthropic efforts into a global context?
  • You like the idea of supporting learning collaboration in theory but in practice it’s getting messy?
  • Yes, yes, and YES we have some tools for that.

For more insights and access to the materials please follow the links below. And Save the Date for two webinars and a presentation at GEO’s learning conference to engage with a community of changemakers and early adopters to make our philanthropic work more impactful!

Good Intentions Are Not Enough: Making Evaluations More Useful for Foundation Strategy and Practice

Evaluators are often invited late to the social change party. To be most effective, evaluation should be addressed early, but too often promises of outcomes and impact have already been stated and approved. With pre-defined and often inappropriate expectations for evaluation of the work, there is often disappointment in the results. The brief outlines six areas of focus and change that will help improve the application of evaluation in philanthropic strategy.

Evaluation is So White: Systemic Wrongs Reinforced by Common Practices and How to Start Righting Them

Building a field of diverse evaluators who bring a variety of lived and cultural perspectives strengthens the salience, resonance, and responsiveness of evaluation—methodologically, analytically, and in the application of evaluation lessons to drive more equitable and impactful social outcomes. Along with this, foundations must be ready to accept and value different ways of thinking and new perspectives, or efforts to diversity the field will fail. The brief highlights common practices and suggests ways to change them.

Knowledge Sharing is a Mission Imperative: Why We Cannot Afford to Keep Evaluation Findings to Ourselves and How We Can Do Better

The open letter, discussion guide, and dissemination planning tool in this brief can help funders and evaluators anticipate and overcome some of the most common barriers to evaluation knowledge sharing. Using these resources, funders, evaluators, and grantees can work together to develop a dissemination plan at the beginning of every evaluation engagement—helping to establish knowledge sharing as the norm, rather than the exception.

Advancing Evaluation Practice to Meet Global Challenges: A Call to Action and Reflection

As philanthropy takes on a larger role in global development, foundations and evaluators can nurture and grow a robust, inclusive ecosystem that allows the co-creation of paths by which funders and evaluators can catalyze innovative thinking and undertake coordinated action with others in support of global transformation. This brief identifies ways foundations and evaluators can join forces to deepen field capacity, undertake complementary actions, harness philanthropy’s unique position, and bring more and different people together to advance this work.

Better Together: How Evaluator Collaborations Can Strengthen Philanthropy and Increase Collective Knowledge

Competition among evaluators impedes collaboration and knowledge-sharing that could advance the collective capacity of the field. Part of the problem is that there is a lack of structures or mechanisms that facilitate learning and collaboration among evaluators and funders. This guide provides step-by-step instructions for evaluation firms and professionals interested in engaging in more formal partnerships, including: establishing the purpose and formality of the partnerships, and evaluator and funder considerations in supporting these partnerships.

Interested in Learning More?

The Call to Action series is intended to drive sharing, discussion, action, and change. FEAN invites funders, evaluators, nonprofits, and others from the philanthropic sector to engage in discussion of the issues and recommendations. Join us for rich discussion in a two-webinar series.

The first webinar on June 17, will explore the topics of knowledge-sharing, evaluator collaborations, and ways to strengthen the ecosystem of evaluators working on global transformation.

The second webinar on July 15, will focus on actionable strategies to make evaluations more useful to philanthropy and to help evaluators of color thrive.

For more information, please visit []( or email

About FEAN

Founded in 2017, FEAN brings together funders and evaluators to review the current state of evaluation in philanthropy, identify key opportunities and challenges in this field of practice, and work individually and collectively toward solutions that advance shared capacity on the part of evaluators working with, and within, philanthropy. It is funded the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, The California Endowment, the California Health Care Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, the Minnesota Community Foundation Donor Advised Fund, the James Irvine Foundation, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, and the Walton Family Foundation. For more information, please visit or email