Giving Compass' Take:

• Teri Behrens shares ways to overcome the problems of traditional foundation evaluation and improve processes to achieve impact. 

• How you can implement these practices in your own organizations? 

• Read more about improving foundation evaluation

How can foundation evaluation be improved?

Invest in getting more and more diverse evaluators familiar with how foundations work: Because evaluation consultants are often for-profit firms or individual consultants, foundations have not invested in their capacity building. Yet, they are a critical part of the infrastructure. Supporting mentoring and training for these consultants is in the sector’s interest.

Reframe evaluation as a management tool: Evaluation should be built into the program strategy, not as an independent observer but as a function whose role is to bring facts and data to bear on the implementation.

Have internal conversations about your culture and how evaluation fits into it: What kind of data does your foundation value? How does the board think about evaluation? How do internal power dynamics influence programming and evaluation? Patton’s Theory of Philanthropy may be a useful framework for these conversations.

Spend time up-front on the difficult conversations about what it is you are evaluating — and why: Are you trying to develop a model program that will be replicable and scalable? Or are you trying to support change in a particular community? Are you interested in how your grantmaking is building or influencing a field of work? If the answer to all of these is “yes,” you may need to dig deeper into your strategy and theory of change before you are ready to effectively use evaluation.

Read the full article about evaluation by Teri Behrens at Johnson Center.