NPF TIG Week: Making Values Part of a Foundation’s Evaluation Process by Kelly Hannum, Jara Dean-Coffey & Jill Casey

Greetings! We are Kelly Hannum, Jara Dean-Coffey, and Jill Casey and as part of the Luminare Group we offer strategy and evaluation services and we regularly work with foundations. Evaluation is part of the work to advance the aims of foundations. Ideally evaluation is part of and flows from a foundation’s strategy. Evaluation provides the means to both understand and to demonstrate value and to do so in a manner that reflects the values of the foundation. The connections between the value created and the values by which that impact is created should be meaningful and explicit. This isn’t a new or particularly revolutionary idea, but the practice of explicitly incorporating values into evaluation work continues to lag. While making values an explicit part of work is important for any kind of organization, it is critical for foundations. Why? Because by their nature foundations are values-driven organizations and that should be explicitly reflected in all facets of their work. Doing so in evaluation work is particularly important because it enables foundations to hold themselves accountable for living their values in meaningful ways and to demonstrate to others that they are living their values. It also sets an example for others to do the same.

Hot Tip: Be intentional and explicit about your organizational or programmatic values

Hot Tip: Incorporate values into frameworks used to guide or describe efforts, such as your Theory of Change

Hot Tip: Reflect on the ways in which how you currently engage in evaluation may or may not be aligned with your organizational values and your grantmaking strategy

Hot Tip: Think about how you have conducted and used evaluation findings in the past and identify what worked, why and how to get more of that (and less of the other stuff). What implicit values are suggested in how you’ve conducted or used evaluation – both in terms of the processes used as well as what stakeholders were involved and how they were involved?

Hot Tip: Clarify how evaluation will be used and regularly communicate that to stakeholders (it also never hurts to be transparent when using evaluation so stakeholders see you doing what you said you would and so they see how data they provided are being used)

Rad Resource: Developing an evaluative mindset in foundations – This two-part post provides more information about our perspective on why having an evaluative mindset and being explicit about it is important in foundations.

Rad Resource: The Role of  Culture in Philanthropic Work – This is a collection of resources from Grantmakers for Effective Organizations

Rad Resource: Raising the Bar  This article discusses how philanthropy can use an equitable-evaluation approach to apply the principles of the AEA statement, present the concept of equitable evaluation alongside an approach for building equitable-evaluation capacity, and apply equitable evaluation capacity building to philanthropy.

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.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.