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Learning and Evaluation

By shifting our understanding of evaluation so that it’s focused squarely on improvement and engaging grantees and other partners, we can learn in ways that yield rewards for everyone involved.

3 out of 4

Grantmakers (76%) say they evaluate their work.

Evaluation gives us an opportunity to take stock of what’s working. But when we adopt a learning mindset focused on continuously improving, we can use evaluation for more than just an accountability measure. Instead, we can focus on what we can learn from the data, push ourselves to experiment and deliberately look at failures as opportunities to grow.

Learning can happen in any number of ways, but what’s important to remember is that our evaluation work is only successful if nonprofits are able to learn from it as well. We should therefore only ask for evaluation data we’re going to use and strive to have evaluations be as useful to nonprofits for their own decision-making as it is for us. This requires us to share the power of evaluation, and look to nonprofits and communities to help define success, determine what data to measure and say what data means. That’s why it’s important that we work to build nonprofit evaluative capacity. By shifting our understanding of evaluation so that it’s focused squarely on improvement and engaging grantees and other partners, we can learn in ways that yield rewards for everyone involved.

“We want to create a place where people at all levels of the organization have opportunities to reflect with others about their work and to apply what they’re learning so they can do a better job.”

Amanuel Melles, former director of programs and capacity building, United Way Toronto

Helpful Tools and Resources

Stay informed of the emerging trends and promising practices from the field of philanthropy through GEO’s publications and research.

  • Perspective

    Cross-post: How Do We Measure Success?

    This is a cross-post of an article written by Scott Heimlich of the Amgen Foundation on learning, evaluation and measuring success. For the full article, visit: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/how-do-we-measure-success-thoughts-soccer-goals-social-scott-heimlich

    • Grantmakers for Effective Organizations
    • September 2019
  • Perspective

    Cross-post: Candid Announces Inaugural #OpenForGood Award Winners

    As part of the Grantmakers for Effective Organizations Learning Conference 2019, Candid announced the inaugural recipients of the #OpenForGood Award, which is designed to recognize and encourage foundations to openly share what they learn so we can all get collectively smarter. The three winning foundations each demonstrate an active commitment to open knowledge and share their evaluations through IssueLab, an open repository that is free, searchable, and accessible to all. Selected by an external committee from a globally sourced nomination process, the committee reviewed the contenders looking for evidence of an active commitment to open knowledge, creative approaches to making knowledge shareable, field leadership, and incorporating community insights into knowledge sharing work. And the winners are...

    • Grantmakers for Effective Organizations
    • August 2019
  • GEOList Members Only

    GEOList Summary: Seeking learning and sharing platform for grant partners

    Hello, We are exploring ways to improve our evaluation and learning as a partner. We are hoping to explore a platform that would go beyond a traditional reporting structure and would allow grant partners and community leaders to utilize something similar to a listserv to both inquire and share learnings from their work. We would love to hear about any successes and/or challenges in developing this type of resource, what platform might work, and if being a funder presented any barriers (thinking about power dynamics). Best,

    • Grantmakers for Effective Organizations
    • August 2019
  • GEOList Members Only

    GEOList Summary: Long-term and renewal grantees: how you do it?

    Hello everyone, This is probably a perennial question for a lot of us, but I wanted to ask anyway and learn from your responses: - Does your foundation make any longer-term grants or engage in longer-term funding relationships with grantees through grants that are renewed over a number of years? - If yes, what does that look like? o Is it a well-defined program approach in which different types of grants are treated as automatic renewals or automatic multiyear grants? Or is it a funding mechanism your foundation has developed over time as a time-saver for the grantmaking staff? o Do you automate renewals? o Do you require anything different, any less or any more in the application or in the due diligence, from longer term or renewal grantees than you do from first-time or short-term grantees? o If you issue a formal agreement to your renewal or longer-term grantees, does that agreement look different from the one you would issue to a first time or one-time grantee? o Do you have a limit on how many times you will renew a grant? o What are some lessons learned about long-term renewals that you would be willing to share with other donors? Thank you for helping me think this through. All the best,

    • Grantmakers for Effective Organizations
    • August 2019
  • GEOList Members Only

    GEOList Summary: Seeking Social Network Analysis Consultant Recommendations

    Good morning GEOList: We are a grantmaking and an operating foundation, and we collect a lot of data on connections between program cohort participants, and between participants and organizations in our grantmaking network. We are interested in hiring a consultant to help us clean and standardize the data, and answer questions like:  What does the network look like, within and between cohorts and organizations?  Have new connections developed over time?  Have existing connections been maintained and/or strengthened?  Are there more higher level interactions over time (e.g. professional rather than social)?  Where are the hubs/animators within the network? Where are the outliers? If you have worked with a firm that can provide social network analysis consulting, I am interested in hearing about your experience (good and bad) and to see any deliverables you are able to share.

    • Grantmakers for Effective Organizations
    • July 2019

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Perspectives on Philanthropy

Interesting thoughts and ideas circulating in the GEO community.

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    Bruner Foundation

    Effectiveness Initiatives

    To quote author Gail Berkowitz, this web portal "is a helpful one stop site for resources for funders and their partners on evaluation capacity building and evaluative thinking."

  • A strategic approach to evaluation requires a clear vision for evaluation; a culture that fosters individual, group, and organizational learning; a compelling and cogent strategy; coordinated evaluation and learning activities; and a supportive environment.

  • Article Photo

    Innovation Network

    State of Evaluation 2016

    State of Evaluation 2016 contains exciting updates, three special topics (evaluation storage systems and software, big data, and pay for performance), and illuminating findings for everyone who works with nonprofit organizations.

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Capacity Building

Grantmakers who put the work in to provide effective capacity-building support help ensure that nonprofits have what they need to deliver on their missions over the long term.

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Learning and Evaluation

By shifting our understanding of evaluation so that it’s focused squarely on improvement and engaging grantees and other partners, we can learn in ways that yield rewards for everyone involved.

Learn More
Nichole Hoeflich

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