NPF TIG Week: Measured Impact: Ways Evaluators Can Work with Foundations to Create a Solid Evaluation Framework by Shanesha Brooks-Tatum

My name is Dr. Shanesha Brooks-Tatum, Vice President of Creative Research Solutions and I have worked with foundations such as the United Nations Foundation and UNCF.  In my work with foundations, I have found that many struggle with ways to create a more solid internal evaluation framework, especially with regards to shifts in internal leadership. Today, I will describe ways that evaluators can work with foundations to strengthen their evaluation framework, which is especially important given the current social and political climates.

Hot Tip:  Highlight the organization’s successes beyond awarded grant dollars. What does the foundation uniquely bring to the table? Identify any processes the foundation uses to engage with grantees and other stakeholders within its areas of focus.

Hot Tip:  Help executive staff test and refine the organization’s fluency in their model of engagement. It is extremely important for leadership and all staff to become fluent in the unique model an organization offers. For example, how does the foundation support its grantees, and has this process been tested over time and in different contexts? A related question is: What philanthropic models have been the most successful for the foundation? How has this model been tested with rigorous research and evaluation?

Hot Tip:  Clearly document evaluation outcomes to communicate impact. Oftentimes evaluators are asked to produce a report or presentation, which few if any of the internal constituents see. Think creatively about other ways to present data in a user-friendly fashion, such as with infographics with an accompanying executive summary, or as data charts with photos that illustrate the major outcomes or project activities. Likewise, ensure that these materials are housed on the foundation’s website and are easily and clearly reachable from the homepage.

To delve more into the nitty-gritty of presenting evaluation outcomes, evaluators are encouraged to answer the following questions in partnership with foundation leadership:

1) In what ways might the philanthropic model need to shift based on evaluation outcomes?
2) How can we best articulate any shifts in our approach or model internally and externally in order to leverage lessons learned?
3) How can we refine our current grantee reporting system to save time, money and energy on understanding impact on a regular (i.e., quarterly or semi-annual) basis?
4) How can we best highlight what variables most contribute to our organization’s success?

Making sure that the answers to these questions are clear and that the aforementioned documentation components are in place will better ensure the visibility of foundations’ progress and successes.

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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