Vardhani Ratnala on Assessing your D.A.T.E. (Donor Attitude Towards Evaluation)

Hi, my name is Vardhani Ratnala and I am a monitoring and evaluation professional.

Sometime back, a project I associated with was shut down following an evaluation. This got me reflecting on donor attitudes towards project evaluations, especially their reactions following an evaluation which shows negative results. A cloak of secrecy descends on such projects and their funding is cut down or withdrawn, leaving its stakeholders in a lurch.

Today, the cause of many problems plaguing the field of evaluations such as low demand, lack of methodological rigor, etc. lie in donor attitudes. Donors reward and penalize projects based on their compliance with agreed outcomes as shown in an evaluation. No wonder, that implementation teams view evaluations as inspections and are wary of them; they only undertake mandatory evaluations using convenient methods which help them showcase successes.

Lessons Learned: Based on attitudes towards evaluations, generally, donors fall into two categories:

  • Reactionary Donors – who react to negative evaluation results immediately by cutting or withdrawing funds.
  • Visionary Donors – who take time to assess negative evaluation results to determine what failed and why, and find ways to sustain good components from the project, or develop an exit strategy to transition out smoothly without affecting beneficiaries. Such donors tend to embrace project failures as learnings and are willing to accept deviations from agreed outcomes.

Hot Tips: Use the questions below to assess your D.A.T.E. i.e. your Donor’s Attitude Towards Evaluations

  1. What has been the donor’s immediate reaction to projects following evaluation? Did they increase, withdraw or cut funding?
  1. As part of their evaluation policy, do they have specific guidelines on “post-evaluation treatment” of a project? For e.g. If a project has achieved 60% of its promised targets, would it receive further funding, and at what level? Do they have specific “post-evaluation standards” that define levels of success or failure, the course of action to be pursued at each level, by whom, and within what time frame? Are these standards applied uniformly to all evaluated projects?
  1. How does the donor treat evaluation products? Are all evaluation reports circulated internally and available in public domain, especially, reports which show negative evaluation results?
  1. Does the donor take into account the project’s point of view? Review the “Management Response” section of evaluation reports to determine if the donor has taken into account the implementation team’s views before deciding on a course of action following an evaluation.
  1. Do they hide failures or view them as learnings? Is a ‘failed’ project still part of communication material such as websites, brochures, reports etc. or have all traces of it been removed? Are learnings being incorporated into new project designs?

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.

1 thought on “Vardhani Ratnala on Assessing your D.A.T.E. (Donor Attitude Towards Evaluation)”

  1. Provocative! This makes me want to delve further into what successful organizations are doing to communicate with their donors in light of negative results. Do leaders engage their supporters in timely, open, pro-active discussions about how to move forward? If so, or if not, does that impact future funding?

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