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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: Rethinking Outcomes in a Crisis Context

    In this critical time, and with a sense of urgency, many philanthropic organizations are shifting the ways in which they are supporting grantees. However, foundation staff are increasingly wondering about the last point: “What grantee outcomes will we be able to report on if they are not submitting reports?,” “What do we mean by relaxing reporting requirements?,” “How can we ensure that our funds are used effectively?,” and “For how long should these changes be in effect?”

    • Grantmakers for Effective Organizations
    • August 2020
  • GEOList Members Only

    GEOList Summary: Impact Report Samples

    Hello, Everyone! I am in search of Impact Report Samples. Please share a quick reference or link to anything you’ve found particularly inspiring and helpful ~ including samples that capture major, multi-year investments. The Sprouts Healthy Communities Foundation (nonprofit arm of Sprouts Farmers Market) operates a high-impact, multi-year grant program and will be producing a report (for board members and community at large) and we’d like to knock it out of the park! With advance gratitude for your generosity of time and insight,

    • Grantmakers for Effective Organizations
    • August 2020
  • GEOList Members Only

    GEOList Summary: Promotional Kit for Grantees

    Good afternoon! We would like to encourage grantees to include us in their promotional materials for programs/projects/initiatives that we have funded. I’d like it to be a “kit” with various marketing verbiage and tools (like our logo) that we can send via a link to our grantees after a grant cycle, either hosted on a webpage or other “all-in-one” vehicle to make it very easy for them to pull the language or logo they need, with minimal support from our team. Do any other foundations have a promotional kit like this and ask grantees to include their foundation’s name/logo in their marketing and PR? If so, I’d appreciate knowing how you word this to your grantees, what tools you provide, and how you share those tools with grantees. Thanks!

    • Grantmakers for Effective Organizations
    • August 2020
  • GEOList Members Only

    GEOList Summary: Consultant to assist in RFP process for Investment Firm Search

    The Mary Black Foundation will be undergoing a RFP process for Investment Firm this fall. We would like to use a consultant to help us through the process of soliciting and reviewing proposals. Do you have any recommendations for this service? Many thanks for your feedback!

    • Grantmakers for Effective Organizations
    • July 2020
  • Perspective

    New Survey: How Online Work is Impacting Us All

    Andy Goodman, director and co-founder of the Goodman Center, is launching a new survey to examine how online work--generally and in light of the pandemic--is impacting us all.

    • Grantmakers for Effective Organizations
    • July 2020

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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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