In 2017, NYSHealth began to build up an internal policy and research team for the first time, which presented the right moment to take a hard look at our Scorecard. One of the first decisions we made was to move away from the nomenclature of “Scorecard,” which can have a punitive connotation. While we believe it is appropriate to view the document as a “north star” — i.e., a constant reminder of what we are trying to achieve and how much work needs to be done to get there — it is not a tool for rating individual staff performance. We changed the name of the product from “Scorecard” to “Progress Report” to help ensure the document was viewed as aspirational in nature, as opposed to punitive.

Consistent with moving away from the Scorecard framework, we also decided to move away from having purely numeric goals. Numeric goals have the advantage of being concise and allowing for a straightforward interpretation of whether a goal has been met. For example, to measure progress on our goal to spread effective diabetes prevention programs, we identified a target of having 65 such programs in New York State within a particular timeframe. To truly “keep score,” it became an exercise in counting.

However, it was often unrealistic to set numeric targets in advance. In some cases, we didn’t aim high enough and met the targets more quickly than expected. In others, the targets were too high and were never met. The targets were often arbitrary. Was there something magical about having 65 diabetes prevention programs? Was it meaningfully different from 55 or 75 programs?

Numbers have value, but the availability of numeric data is no longer a primary driver of the measures we choose.

We believe our foundation (as well as most — if not all — others) does important work to make a positive difference in people’s lives. However, not all of our efforts have led to the intended impacts, and some have fallen short of expectations. Sometimes the environment changes in unexpected ways; sometimes a particular strategy simply misses the mark. We try to learn from that and incorporate those lessons into our efforts.

Self-reflection and evaluation is a constant process for foundations; public documentation of that may only be a small part of that process. But as stewards of resources to advance the public interest, it is incumbent upon us to be transparent about our successes and our failures and to share with each other what we are learning.

Read the full article about foundation self-assessment by Mark Zezza and Maureen Cozine at The Center for Effective Philanthropy.