Our intent in this publication is to offer some simple, pragmatic approaches to evaluation. The most effective evaluation efforts are tailored to the size, scale, and complexity of the initiative under review, and conform to the donor’s philanthropic goals, strategy, and learning style. The approach that you decide to take to evaluation may be formal or informal, costly, or cost- free, analytical or intuitive. In the end, it is all about learning from the giving experience, gaining a better understanding of the difference you are making, and improving the effectiveness of your future philanthropic investments.

“I want to make a difference” This simple statement often sums up the motivating impulse for both sophisticated and beginning philanthropists. However, most donors soon learn that it is very difficult to measure the results of charitable activity. Donors who come to philanthropy from business careers often expect to measure nonprofit performance by the rigorous, quantitative measures used in the corporate sector, and are surprised by the resistance to such metrics in the world of philanthropy and “social investment.” Indeed, there has long been debate about whether it even makes sense to import business metrics and expectations to the nonprofit sector and yet, the frustration around the issue of evaluation probably keeps some potential donors from becoming deeply engaged in philanthropy.

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