Need practical how-to info that aims to help you build your evaluation capacity? This collection includes suggested readings from our friends at BetterEvaluation, the Center for Evaluation Innovation, the Center for Effective Philanthropy, and Grantmakers for Effective Organizations as well as hand-picked content by Candid. Thousands of actual evaluations are  available for download.

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Benchmarking Foundation Evaluation Practices

September 1, 2016

For foundations, there are lots of questions to reflect on when thinking about which evaluation practices best align with their strategy, culture, and mission. How much should a foundation invest in evaluation? What can they do to ensure that the information they receive from evaluation is useful to them? With whom should they share what they have learned?Considering these numerous questions in light of benchmarking data about what other foundations are doing can be informative and important.Developed in partnership with the Center for Evaluation Innovation (CEI), Benchmarking Foundation Evaluation Practices is the most comprehensive data collection effort to date on evaluation practices at foundations. The report shares data points and infographics on crucial topics related to evaluation at foundations, such as evaluation staffing and structures, investment in evaluation work, and the usefulness of evaluation information.Findings in the report are based on survey responses from individuals who were either the most senior evaluation or program staff at foundations in the U.S. and Canada giving at least $10 million annually, or members of the Evaluation Roundtable, a network of foundation leaders in evaluation convened by CEI.

Evaluation in Foundations; Must-Reads

Evaluating Networks for Social Change: A Casebook - Part 2 of a Guide to Network Evaluation

July 30, 2014

The casebook is part 2 of of a guide to network evaluation. This document provides profiles of nine evaluations that detail key questions, methodologies, implementation and results while expanding what is known about assessment approaches that fit how networks develop and function. It was written as a complement to a framing paper: The State of Network Evaluation, which offers the field's current thinking on frameworks, approaches and tools to address practical questions about designing and funding network evaluations.What will I learn in the guide?· How an evaluation can help a network function more effectively and promote network health· Elements of a network that can be evaluated· Approaches, methods and tools for evaluating networks· How to design a network evaluation that fits the? network type and investment (e.g., size, stage of development; issue focus)· Key questions to ask in a network evaluation· Examples of network evaluations and what has been learned from them

Guidelines and Best Practices; Tools and Frameworks

How Shortcuts Cut Us Short: Cognitive Traps in Philanthropic Decision Making

May 1, 2014

Foundations need to build new ways of thinking and interaction that help to combat cognitive traps, support rigorous inquiry, and foster more deliberative decision making. This brief highlights several common cognitive traps that can trip up philanthropic decision making, and suggests straightforward steps that strategists, evaluators, and organizational learning staff can take to address them.

Guidelines and Best Practices; Must-Reads

Eyes Wide Open: Learning as Strategy Under Conditions of Complexity and Uncertainty

January 1, 2013

Foundations have important but unrealized potential to contribute value to strategy by building, supporting, and engaging in learning. While learning is important for strategic success in most circumstances, it becomes essential when foundations engage in many large and extraordinarily difficult and complex concerns: improving food security in Africa; addressing global warming, poverty, or issues of equity in difficult urban settings.This article identifies three common "traps" that hinder foundation capacity to learn and adapt: 1) linearity and certainty bias; 2) the autopilot effect; and 3) indicator blindness. The authors propose a framework to avoid these traps. Through learning from action, a truly powerful strategy – one with the potential to foster change and better outcomes – can emerge and take hold.

Guidelines and Best Practices; Must-Reads; Tools and Frameworks

Evaluation for Models and Adaptive Initiatives

March 1, 2012

In this article, we promote the use of evaluation for unlocking the power of both models and adaptive initiatives. Our aim is to help grantmakers understand the critical distinctions between models and adaptive initiatives, whether these represent individual grants or broader initiatives, and to identify how evaluation can be used to learn about and assess impacts at different stages of development. We do not set out to teach evaluation skills or techniques, but to empower grantmakers to strengthen the models and adaptive initiatives in their portfolios through informed, strategic choices about the kinds of evaluation that should be funded. 

Evaluation in Foundations; Must-Reads