Evaluating Program Impact: Our Approach to Performance Assessment Abridged Version

by Elizabeth Campbell; Hope Lyons; Rachel LaForgia

Feb 1, 2013

Discerning and communicating the impact of grantmaking and other programmatic contributions are essential to fulfilling the Rockefeller Brothers Fund's mission as well as our commitment to stewardship, transparency, and accountability. The Fund's board and staff have found that engaging policymakers on the results and insights gained from our grantmaking, informing the public about our grantees' work, and attracting additional donors to promising institutions and approaches are key activities that help build a more just, sustainable, and peaceful world.


In order to bring additional rigor to the Fund's approach to program impact assessment an impact assessment committee, comprised of RBF trustees and staff, was established in March 2012. This committee continued the work of the Fund's 2003 Foundation Performance Assessment Committee that provided guidance to efforts to streamline internal processes, solicit grantee feedback on the RBF's funding approach, and conduct program reviews at regular intervals to assess program impact. The task for the 2012 Impact Assessment Committee was to further define and embed regular program review and impact assessment activities in the Fund's institutional processes in a manner that supports its program approach and grantmaking style.


Principles and Conclusions to Guide the Fund's Approach to Impact


The Impact Assessment Committee developed the following principles to guide the Fund's approach to impact assessment.


* The Fund's impact assessment approach is rooted in its mission and its program goals and reflects and supports the RBF grantmaking style as captured in its program statement. It must be flexible enough to work across the Fund's six programs and their respective evolving contexts.


* Given the nature of the RBF's grantmaking, a wide range of indicators and information is needed to understand the impact the Fund is having on a field or issue.


* The Fund's approach to impact assessment is action-oriented. It enables staff and trustees to better understand the effectiveness of our grantmaking in light of the context in which our grantees are working, make mid-course corrections as necessary, and identify opportunities to share our insights with external audiences.


* Impact assessments focus on the contribution of the Fund's grantmaking to a field or issue over the long term; staff monitor indicators of progress over the near and medium term.


* The impact assessment process should add value to Fund and grantee work, not create administrative and financial burdens.

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