Hello! Our names are Myia Welsh and Johanna Morariu and we work for Innovation Network, an evaluation consulting firm based in Washington, D.C. We work with nonprofits and foundations to build evaluation capacity, and to support learning and evaluation of nonprofit advocacy, programs, and other services.
Lesson Learned: Over the years we’ve provided evaluation capacity building (ECB) services to a variety of nonprofit organizations, and through those engagements have learned six key lessons specific to ECB:
- Clarify what evaluation is (and is not). A needs assessment is one approach that can be helpful in focusing conversation around areas for evaluation improvement.
- Design the ECB offering to be opt-out rather than opt-in. Human behavior studies show that people are less likely to opt in to a behavior than to opt out.
- Include evaluation activities and outcomes in grant reporting. Require grantees to report on evaluation capacity building activities, and to include high quality evaluative information in reporting.
- Balance providing responsive versus strategic services. Sometimes it is better to question a request for ECB—rather than attempting to fulfill every request that is made—so that the impetus behind the request can come to light and be more fully met. (This is especially true for organizations that do not have evaluation staff.)
- Build capacity with staff throughout the organization—beyond leadership. For evaluation and learning to permeate an organization and be a constructive force, staff at all levels must play a part.
- Provide timely services when they are of most use to grantees. Throughout the year there are periods when organizations have more or less time to engage in evaluation, or when evaluation activities become more or less important.
Rad Resource: Interested in reading more about evaluating nonprofit capacity building work? The David and Lucile Packard Foundation is using its rich history of Organizational Effectiveness grants to “analyze and make meaningful the ‘goldmine’ of organizational effectiveness data from 1300 capacity building projects.” The project, called the Goldmine Research Project, is an interesting approach to evaluation; the public is welcome to participate in the project by providing comment and analysis that will help determine the project’s direction.
Rad Resource: To read more about three ECB case studies and our ECB lessons learned check out our white paper Evaluation Capacity Building: Funder Initiatives to Strengthen Grantee Evaluation Capacity Building and Practice at http://www.innonet.org/research.
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