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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.

  • GEOList Members Only

    Multiple Grant Requests from Parent and Subsidiary Nonprofit Organizations

    Hello GEO community, we have a question for the group. The Hartford Foundation for Public Giving is seeing an increase in nonprofit organizations in subsidiary relationship to another nonprofit. How have other foundations worked with these organizations? A specific example would be a parent subsidiary relationship where there is an umbrella nonprofit organization with a 501(c)(3) designation, and two subsidiary organizations, each with their own 501(c)(3) designation and boards. These organizations, while sharing a commonality of purpose do not have a common history. All three organizations have indicated that they would like to apply for grants. Assuming an organization would normally only be eligible for 1 grant per granting period plus 1 collaboration grant, would each of the organization be eligible to apply for 1 grant and would the entirety be eligible to apply for a collaboration grant. If you have experience with this type of organizational structure, please share how you are handling the multiple requests.

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

    Interested in Learning More About Post-Grant Visits

    GEO Community, The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta (CFGA) is interested in learning about post-grant award site visits. Currently, CFGA conducts site visits during application review where some of our Board members and donors may attend with staff. We are considering shifting their engagement to after an award has been made. Do any of you conduct post-grant award site visits in lieu of in cycle site visits? If so: · What is the process for the post-grant award site visit? · Do you feel it is more beneficial than an in-cycle site visit? · When do you conduct the site visit – 3/6/9/12 months after grant is executed? · Is the site visit part of the organization’s End of Grant report? · Do you let Board members or donors attend with staff?

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

    Diversity & Inclusion Change Resources

    Hello Colleagues, We are looking for examples of successful approaches that you may have used within your organizations to strengthen inclusive culture. Certainly hiring, promotion and evaluation are important areas to examine. More importantly, we'd like to learn about your experiences strengthening those informal ways that we work together, communicate, and make decisions every day. This might encompass establishing a common D & I vision, baselining the current organizational state, and/or providing staff/leadership training or coaching.

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

    Applications and Reports

    We’re looking to revamp the questions on our applications and reports. We are especially interested in examples that are aimed at systems change, advocacy, capacity building, etc. Anyone able to share?

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

    Learning Management System

    Looking at using a Learning Management System for a cohort based program we are developing for nonprofit leaders. Many of the systems seem to be for larger, involved programs. Is there anyone using one for smaller groups that they might recommend?

    • Grantmakers for Effective Organizations
    • May 2019

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Perspectives on Philanthropy

Interesting thoughts and ideas circulating in the GEO community.

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    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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    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.

Related Topics


No matter the outcome we are working toward, our institutions and systems were built to advantage some but not all — and data shows that inequities persist to this day. These inequities become more apparent when we take race into account.

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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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Nichole Hoeflich


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