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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

    GEO 2023 Learning Conference: Session Proposal Frequently Asked Questions

    GEO is seeking session proposals for our 2023 Learning Conference: Courageous Unlearning, which will take place in Washington, DC from May 22 to May 23. If you have questions about submitting session ideas, please take a look at our frequently asked questions.

    • Grantmakers for Effective Organizations
    • October 2022
  • Perspective

    Community in Philanthropy: What it is, why we need it, and how we can build it

    Dr. Albertina Lopez explores why community matters in philanthropy and explains how we can build it within our own grantmaking practices.

    • Grantmakers for Effective Organizations
    • August 2022
  • GEOList Members Only

    GEOList Summary: Monitoring and evaluation consultants for community impact strategy

    Good morning, CFU has undertaken a process to develop a community impact strategy for our endowment, issue-based funds, and initiatives. We'd appreciate recommendations for any monitoring and evaluation consultants that this group has been especially impressed with. It would be a bonus if there were any experiences with ESG metrics. Many thanks in advance!

    • Grantmakers for Effective Organizations
    • April 2022
  • GEOList Members Only

    GEOList Summary: What is the best GMS? SmartSimple or Salesforce or Other?

    Dear grantmaking colleagues, Our team is in the search of a grants management system that will help automate our current manual grantmaking process. We’ve narrowed down our top 2 choices - SmartSimple and Salesforce – and want to ask if folks here have any thoughts, opinions, and / or red flags on these systems. Or – please let us know if you know of any exceptional GMS product that has served well for your organization. We are looking for a GMS that is easy to use, highly secure, functional, and continuing to grow in capabilities with our growing organizational needs. Thank you!

    • Grantmakers for Effective Organizations
    • March 2022
  • GEOList Members Only

    GEOList Summary: Advocacy - Policies/Procedures

    Good Morning, Our Community Foundation has gotten more involved in advocacy over the past few years. As part of that, we are hoping to develop specific policies/procedures related to advocacy to help guide our work. Do any GEO members have example policies, procedures, etc. related to advocacy that we could see and/or does anyone know of other foundations that have these and would be willing to share their work?

    • Grantmakers for Effective Organizations
    • March 2022

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    2023 Learning Conference

    Save the Date for GEO's 2023 Learning Conference from May 22 - 23, 2023 in Washington, DC.

    • May 2023

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Perspectives on Philanthropy

Interesting thoughts and ideas circulating in the GEO community.

  • 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.

  • 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.

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.

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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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