Best of aea365 week: Summer Jackson on Insights Into Foundation Evaluation

My name is Summer N. Jackson, Project Director at Bay Area Blacks in Philanthropy a regional, nonprofit membership organization that focuses on advancing the interests of African Americans in philanthropy and address the impact of racial disparity within philanthropic institutions and African American communities in the San Francisco Bay Area.

I had the opportunity to serve as a session scribe at Evaluation 2010 and one of the sessions I attended was session 304: Insights into Foundation Evaluation. I chose this session because I am interested in strategies to develop an organizational learning culture in a foundation.

Lessons Learned – Evaluation should be shared throughout the organization
Traditionally programs are responsible for engaging in the activities for a given evaluation. In the Pan Canadian system, new federal requirements dictate an organizational level approach with creates an institutional culture of learning rather than the top down approach produced when programs hold the responsibility.

Lessons Learned – Create shared values around evaluation
When planning to introduce evaluation into an organization, one should try to create opportunities for discussion through facilitated workgroups rather than as a mandate. An approach that seeks to develop shared values around the benefit of inquiry will increase buy-in from participants.

Hot Tips – Implementing a New Tool:

  • Start with a prototype
  • Identify challenges and work to enhance quality of data received year by year
  • Complete an informal feasibility study to gradually introduce processes that are more rigorous
  • Develop an actionable plan
  • Work with senior management to increase buy-in and to provide directives to staff
  • Consider using a facilitator to provide evaluation education and training
  • Be explicit about organizational goals and try to help staff understand how their work fits into them

Hot Tip – Internal Champions, Open Doors, and Meet & Adjust: When implementing a new evaluative tool or framework in an organization, identify an internal champion that will help promote the tool. Maintain an open door policy after the initial training and offer additionally Technical Assistance (TA) opportunities that are intimate in nature. Lastly, schedule a quarterly/monthly meeting to review data and challenges and readjust when necessary. This will enhance trust and communication between the program staff as well as enhance the quality of data you receive in the end.

This post is a modified version of a previously published aea365 post in an occasional series, “Best of aea365.” 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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