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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

    GEOList Summary: Question about fiscally sponsored projects

    Hello Everyone! We're trying to understand how funders view fiscally sponsored projects. In particular: Do grantmakers avoid fiscally sponsored projects? If the sponsor of the project doesn't have a really snappy Guidestar listing and/or website, does this impact the grantmaker's perception of the sponsored project? If a sponsored project has been successful and is looking to grow, is it preferrable for them (in the eyes of a funder) to become a separate nonprofit? Any general recommendations for a fiscally sponsored project? Thanks so much for any shared insights!

    • Grantmakers for Effective Organizations
    • November 2021
  • GEOList Members Only

    GEOList Summary: Guiding Questions

    I am interested in more information about the use of guided conversations to augment if not replace select reporting requirements. If you are using site visits or other informal communications to gather application or reporting information - I would greatly appreciate you sharing any specific tools you use or insights you have gained through the process

    • Grantmakers for Effective Organizations
    • September 2021
  • GEOList Members Only

    GEOList Summary: Foundation Fellowship Programs

    I’m doing some research into creating a (likely 2-year) post-college fellowship program and was hoping to get some insight from other foundations who manage this type of fellowship. In particular- • How do you manage recruitment? • What do the Fellow’s job description and assignments look like? • What are the ultimate goals of the Fellowship and how do you ensure they’re achieved?

    • Grantmakers for Effective Organizations
    • September 2021
  • Perspective

    Giving While Learning: How Regrantors Enable Every Funder to Advance Racial Equity…Starting Now

    In response to the converging social and public health pandemics last year, people organized, voted, donated, and resisted, all united by the desire to transform reality into a more equitable future. This showed up in philanthropic giving through an unprecedented surge of commitments to funding for racial equity.

    • Grantmakers for Effective Organizations
    • September 2021
  • GEOList Members Only

    GEOList Summary: Seeking resources for evaluating an ED of a small foundation

    Does anyone have any recommended resources for evaluating an Executive Director of a small foundation?

    • Grantmakers for Effective Organizations
    • August 2021

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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.

Learn More

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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