NPF TIG Week: Skills Evaluators Can Draw Upon to Strengthen Relationships between Funders and Nonprofits by Loraine Park

Hi! My name is Loraine Park and I am the Learning and Impact Manager at ECMC Foundation, a national funder focused on improving postsecondary outcomes for students from underserved backgrounds. Before joining ECMC Foundation, I worked at an evaluation consulting firm for over a decade. With my perspective as both an internal and external evaluator, I started thinking about the skills that evaluators can draw on to strengthen partnerships between nonprofits and foundations.

Lessons Learned:

  • Do what evaluators do best—ask questions. Asking good questions is an essential skill for all evaluators. In particular, evaluation questions are at the core of our work and drive all other phases of the evaluative process from design, data collection, analysis, reporting, and dissemination. The ability to work with others to co-develop evaluation questions that are clear, meaningful, and answerable are at the heart of our work. In addition, asking the right questions has to be coupled with understanding the real power dynamics at play. There are many resources and tools that have surfaced the power dynamics that exist between funders and nonprofits and how these relationships can be more equitable. Examining and surfacing power dynamics that underlie our evaluation questions is a powerful tool that evaluators have to create more meaningful and equitable relationships between foundations and nonprofits. A session at this year’s AEA Conference highlighted two evaluation projects commissioned by funders and how the initial evaluation questions were shaped with more equitable perspectives.  
  • Find and create more “yes, and” moments. I recently had the opportunity to participate in a training offered by Second City Works. During the training, the Second City team walks participants through a series of communication exercises. During the first exercise one member of the small group experiences generating an idea and having it shot down by other members of the group who tell you “no”. Eventually, this leads to an exercise in which your thoughts and suggestions are affirmed and built upon through “yes, and”. This can be a powerful tool for evaluators to draw upon. We need to understand what is driving the evaluation questions that are posed to us, but that does not mean we should stop there. Look for opportunities to build upon these questions and raise different perspectives using “yes, and”.  

Rad Resources:

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@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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