My name is Ranjani Paradise, and I am the Assistant Director of Evaluation at the Institute for Community Health (ICH), a nonprofit consulting organization in Massachusetts. In recent years, ICH has worked with several foundations to design and carry out external evaluations for multi-site grant-making initiatives. With some of the initiatives we have evaluated, the array of funded projects has varied widely in terms of activities and expected outcomes. This creates a challenge for us as evaluators – how do we design an evaluation that captures the unique achievements and impacts of each individual grantee, while also telling the story of how the funding mechanism as a whole is creating change?
The first step is to make sure that we have a clear understanding of each funded project and how it connects to the foundation’s overall goals. In starting these evaluations, we always reach for one of the most fundamental tools in the evaluator’s toolbox – the logic model. Yes, many grantees may groan when they hear “logic model”, but this is truly one of the best tools for building shared understanding and strong working relationships at the beginning of an evaluation process.
Make logic models at two levels:
- Grantee-level – We start by working with each grantee to make an individual logic model for their funded program. This process helps ensure that everyone is on the same page about what each project is seeking to do.
- Foundation-level – We also work with the foundation to make an overarching logic model that depicts the grant-making initiative as a whole, and to articulate how each individual project fits in to the overarching logic model. This helps make sure we understand the bigger picture of what the foundation is aiming to do with the grants.
- Be collaborative – To build shared understanding, make sure that you work in partnership with each grantee to create their logic model, and that their feedback and input is incorporated into the final product. Because time and budget are often limited, try to streamline the logic modeling process and be respectful of grantees’ time. We have found that it works well for us to create an initial logic model draft based on the program’s grant proposal, and then bring that draft to a meeting with the grantee to gather feedback.
- Use the logic models throughout the evaluation – Once you have developed logic models that all stakeholders are happy with, make sure you put them to good use! In our evaluations, we use grantee-level logic models as the starting point for creating customized evaluation plans, and we use the foundation-level logic model as a framework for reporting findings.
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