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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

    What Would It Take to Align Foundation Mission and Evaluation Practice?

    Equitable evaluation has created a critical space for reflective practice. As evaluators and researchers, we need to reflect on the notion of rigor. We all have points of view and biases that we must acknowledge. Making visible evaluation orthodoxies invites us to engage with the paradigms that tend to govern our efforts.

    • Grantmakers for Effective Organizations
    • April 2018
  • Perspective

    Knowledge Sharing to Strengthen Grantmaking

    When foundations share knowledge generated through evaluation, strategy development and thought leadership, they benefit not only others but also themselves. Sharing knowledge can deepen internal reflection and learning, lead to new connections and ideas, and promote institutional credibility and influence.

    • Grantmakers for Effective Organizations
    • April 2018
  • Related Materials Members Only

    GEO's Resources on Learning and Evaluation

    In your first year of GEO membership, to help you stay informed of the emerging trends and promising practices from the field, we'll point you to GEO's publications, research and peer conversations. Below, find links to tools and resources on learning and evaluation. We hope these are helpful as you explore how GEO can support your work.

    • Grantmakers for Effective Organizations
    • April 2018
  • Perspective

    A New Guide from Philanthropy's Reflective Practices

    Philanthropy's Reflective Practices released a guide exploring four reflective practices. Read more about their work and download the guide today.

    • Grantmakers for Effective Organizations
    • April 2018
  • GEOList Members Only

    GEOList Summary: Policy and Advocacy Evaluation Workshop Facilitator

    Interact for Health is interested in organizing a workshop focused on how to plan, implement, and use policy and advocacy evaluation.

    • Grantmakers for Effective Organizations
    • March 2018

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Perspectives on Philanthropy

Interesting thoughts and ideas circulating in the GEO community.

  • 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.

  • Article Photo

    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

Equity

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.

Learn More

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.

Learn More
Nichole Hoeflich

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