NPF TIG Week: How do funders use data? By Chari Smith

Welcome to the Nonprofits and Foundations TIG week! Hi, I’m Chari Smith with Evaluation into Action.  Along with and Michael Parkhurst, Program Officer with Meyer Memorial Trust Foundation, we did a cross-site evaluation of Meyer’s support for nine Manufactured Home Repair Programs across Oregon over a two-year period. 

Our Year 1 Impact Summary report provided successes, challenges and opportunities. We used the report in several ways:

1. Further discussion with key stakeholders. We brought together other funders and other stakeholders interested in this topic to review the report, and highlight the impact of this work.

2. Program improvement. Data showed many organizations had not implemented their equity strategy as planned. In response, Meyer Memorial Trust offered equity trainings and other support.  

3.Communicate with the community. Meyer published a blog post about the report, sharing with the larger community about the project and what the year 1 report meant.

Hot Tips  

  • Collaborate. Whenever possible, include both the funder and nonprofit staff in key decisions as early as possible: defining the logic model, data collection tools, survey administration process, and intended uses of the evaluation results.
  • Share. Invite others in the field to come together and discuss the findings.

Lessons Learned:  

  • Start early. The evaluation team was brought into the project after it had started. By the time the evaluation plan was complete and we were ready to collect data, the first year was nearly complete. Funders should involve an evaluation team before the project begins and collaborate to build data collection and reporting into the work from the beginning.

Rad Resources:

  • Foundation Review. The Foundation Review is a peer-reviewed journal available by subscription in print or online. The following link is a collection of articles from the Foundation Review focused on how foundations use data.  
  • Real learning in Real Time: Dr. Michael Quinn Patton. (6/20/2013) Evaluation expert Michael Quinn Patton gives a brief summary of some of the ideas covered during his plenary session at The Learning Conference 2013 presented by the Grantmakers for Effective Organizations.
  • Peter York’s A funder’s Guide to Evaluation: Leveraging Evaluation to Improve Nonprofit Effectiveness (2005).  Special thanks to Melanie Hawkins, Ph.D., CEO, SPEC Associates for pointing out this resource to me.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Nonprofits and Foundations Topical Interest Group (NPFTIG) Week. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from our NPFTIG 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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