Hello, fellow data enthusiasts! I’m Jennifer Glickman, manager on the research team at the Center for Effective Philanthropy (CEP). Over the past two years, CEP has partnered with the Center for Evaluation Innovation (CEI) to answer the question, how are foundations assessing their performance?
Rad Resource: Benchmarking Foundation Evaluation Practices
This past month, CEP and CEI released the most comprehensive review to date of evaluation systems at foundations. Our report presents data collected from the most senior staff with evaluation-related responsibilities at 127 foundations. Although a variety of information was gleaned from this research, I found two findings particularly noteworthy.
Lesson Learned: Foundation Leadership Matters
We asked respondents how engaged their foundation’s senior management is in certain aspects of evaluation. Only about half of respondents say senior management engages the appropriate amount in modeling the use of evaluation information in decision making, and even fewer say senior management engages the appropriate amount in supporting adequate investment in the evaluation capacity of grantees. This level of engagement may pose a problem, seeing as respondents who say their foundation’s senior management engages less than the appropriate amount in evaluation also say their foundation has found aspects of its evaluation efforts more challenging.
Board support for evaluation plays a role in the challenges foundations face, as well. When respondents say their foundation’s board is less supportive of evaluation, they also say the foundation is significantly more likely to experience challenges in its evaluation efforts. Yet, only 40 percent of respondents say there is a high level of board support for the role of evaluation staff at their foundation, and only one-third say there is a high level of board support for foundation spending on evaluation.
Lesson Learned: Information is not shared externally
Over three-quarters of respondents say evaluation findings are shared quite a bit or a lot with their foundation’s CEO, and two-thirds say evaluation findings are shared quite a bit or a lot with their foundation’s staff. This transparency, however, does not seem to extend beyond foundation walls.
Nearly three-quarters of respondents say their foundation invests too little in disseminating evaluation findings externally. This lack of dissemination applies to grantees, other foundations, and the general public. In fact, only 28 percent of respondents say evaluation findings are shared quite a bit or a lot with their foundation’s grantees, and fewer than 20 percent say evaluation findings are shared with other foundations or the general public.
These two findings represent only some of the data discussed in our report. To learn more about the structures foundations have in place for evaluation, including staffing practices and the use of evaluation results, download the report on CEP’s website here.
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