If done properly, evaluation holds the potential to be a valuable tool for advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in individual foundations and throughout the work of the field. Indeed, if DEI is to mean anything, evaluation must become fully incorporated into everything that happens in the work of philanthropy.

Toward this goal, there is a wonderfully promising effort called the Equitable Evaluation Initiative, a five-year effort that attempts “to align evaluation practices with an equity approach — and even more powerfully, to use evaluation as a tool for advancing equity.” The Initiative’s approach is based upon four important principles: diversity of teams, cultural appropriateness, use of evaluation to reveal structural inequity, and advancing the community role in shaping evaluation. It is establishing critical infrastructure for embedding and assessing DEI efforts throughout the field and should be supported and embraced by foundations and field infrastructure organizations alike.

Philanthropy needs to recognize that organization size and access to resources should impact considerations of the type of evaluation deployed. In particular, small nonprofits and those operating in poorer regions and communities of color in literally every state are often negatively impacted by broad, one-size-fits-all approaches to evaluation.   (Of the nation’s estimated 1.5 million nonprofit organizations, 72 percent have budgets of $500,000 or less, and of those, 61 percent have budgets of $100,000 or less, according to Nonprofit Finance Fund.)

At the end of the day, the sector must recognize that a one-size-fits-all approach to evaluation doesn’t benefit foundations, nonprofits, or the constituents nonprofits seek to serve.

Read the full article about social justice by Miles Wilson at The Center for Effective Philanthropy.