Giving Compass' Take:

•  Nonprofit organizations should measure their program success in terms of what they learned and where they can improve rather than binary standards of "successful" or "not successful".

• What will help nonprofits learn how to report results in this way? How can grantmakers offer guidance?

• Read more about recommendations for better grant reporting.


All too often, the phrase “measurement and evaluation” elicits fear in the social sector. Evaluation is often done only when stakes are high, such as when a grantmaker uses results to decide whether to continue funding an initiative or when a funder requires “evidence of impact” before making or increasing grant funding.

As a result, organizations often focus evaluations on binary measures of success (“Was this initiative successful or not?”) rather than opportunities to understand the gaps between what’s working and what’s not (“What have we learned?”) in order to course-correct and build capacity to create greater impact.

This orientation to monitoring versus learning affects foundations and nonprofits alike, with 82 percent of foundations struggling to generate useful lessons for grantees through evaluation; nonprofits, beholden to funders’ requirements, are particularly vulnerable.

To nudge change forward, all social sector organizations should more fully adopt an evaluation culture, a culture in which learning is a companion to doing good work.

Read the full article about the culture of learning in grantmaking by Community Wealth Partners at Medium.