AZENet Week: Catherine Jahnes on Bringing Funders Together to Talk about Evaluation

Hi! I’m Catherine Jahnes, a Phoenix-based evaluator. In Arizona, there can be the sense that the funding community lacks the resources to support evaluation. Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust, Valley of the Sun United Way, First Things First, and Arizona Grantmakers Forum (AGF) united to combat this perception by creating an evaluation-focused affinity group comprised of local funders. The group is just up and running, but we already have some lessons to share about bringing funders together to talk about evaluation.

Hot Tip – The group’s name carries weight. While an increasing number of local funders have evaluators on staff, they still amount to only a handful, so when we convened the group it was important not to inadvertently send the message that we were about evaluation with a capital E. We decided to call ourselves the Evaluation and Impact Affinity Group. By focusing our message on impact and effectiveness, we gathered close to thirty people representing funders of all types and sizes for our first meeting.

Lesson Learned – At the end of the day, funders share similar problems related to evaluation. Topics of interest include:

  • Setting philanthropic goals
  • Building evaluation into the grantmaking process from step one
  • Moving beyond evaluating individual grants to understanding overall impact

Hot Tip – Start with a small, dedicated steering committee that can facilitate discussions and maintain the group’s momentum.

Lesson Learned – If the steering committee consists of representatives from a narrow range of funding types or sizes, it is important to get input from the whole group about discussion topics, and look for ways to diversify leadership.

Rad ResourceArizona Grantmakers Forum is a regional networking and professional development organization for funders with ties to Arizona.

Harvard Family Research Project User’s Guide to Advocacy Evaluation Planning helps funders evaluate their advocacy investment.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Arizona Evaluation Network (AZENet) Affiliate Week with our colleagues in the AZENet AEA Affiliate. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from our AZE members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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