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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MEL Practice at the David and Lucile Packard Foundation: Evaluation in Support of Moving from Good to Great

January 31, 2019

In early 2017, ORS Impact evaluated and re-examined the David and Lucile Packard Foundation monitoring, evaluation, and learning (MEL) principles and practice. The purpose of this evaluation was to discover what works well, identify areas for improvement, and stimulate reflection and experimentation. While this report uncovered many examples of strong MEL practice across the Foundation it also highlighted opportunities for improvement. Research findings fed into Foundation decisions to update both internal and external MEL processes and requirements, including refinement of the Foundation's Guiding Principles for MEL.A key audience of this report include readers wrestling with how to best support MEL in philanthropic settings so that it can support greater learning and impact, such as MEL staff working inside foundations and external evaluators working with foundations.

Reimagining Measurement: A Better Future for Monitoring, Evaluation, and Learning

December 1, 2017

Despite marked advances in the tools and methods for monitoring, evaluation, and learning in the social sector and a burgeoning number of bright spots in practice that are emerging in the field, there is nevertheless broad dissatisfaction across the sector about how data is -- or is not -- used.Reimagining measurement has engaged the field in thinking about where monitoring, evaluation, and learning is likely to head over the next decade. Over the course of extensive research and more than 125 conversations with leading foundation executives and program staff, evaluation experts, nonprofit leaders, data wonks, and other stakeholders, it became clear that there is a real divergence between the future people expect for monitoring, evaluation, and learning, and the future people hope for.

Framing Paper: The State of Network Evaluation

July 30, 2014

This document is Part 1 of a Guide to Network Evaluation and offers the field's current thinking on frameworks, approaches and tools to address practical questions about designing and funding network evaluations. It was developed along with a casebook Evaluating Networks for Social Change: A Casebook that 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. What will you 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

Tools and Frameworks

A Compass in the Woods: Learning Through Grantmaking to Improve Impact

January 1, 2012

The field of philanthropy is under increasing pressure to produce – and be able to demonstrate – greater impact for its investments. A growing number of foundations are moving away from the traditional responsive banker model to becoming more thoughtful and engaged partners with their grantees in the business of producing outcomes. In the process, they are placing bigger bets on larger, more strategic programs and initiatives.  What the field is striving to do now is to ensure that this evolution is based on validated theory, not wishful thinking or shots in the dark. The larger the investment, the more skilled foundations must become at managing risk – making informed decisions, tracking progress, adjusting action and learning – throughout the life of a program, so that foreseeable and unforeseeable changes do not torpedo an otherwise worthy collective effort. The traditional grant‐to‐evaluation‐to‐adjustment cycle is very long. Because many traditional grantmaking practices are proving to be too slow to adapt, these foundations are striving to better integrate real‐time evaluation and learning into their operations in order to become more adaptive; more innovative; more impactful.We undertook this research project to inform how the tools and practices that support Emergent   Learning (described in the next section) can best help foundations and their communities – grantees, intermediaries and other stakeholders – improve the way they learn in complex programs and initiatives.

Evaluation in Foundations; Must-Reads; Tools and Frameworks

Drowning in Paperwork, Distracted from Purpose: Challenges and Opportunities in Grant Application and Reporting

April 1, 2008

Are nonprofits drowning in paperwork and distracted from purpose as a result of grantmakers' application and reporting requirements? Do the same practices that grantmakers use to increase effectiveness end up over-burdening both grantmakers and grantseekers—and diminishing their effectiveness? This research report commissioned by Project Streamline addresses these questions by examining current application and reporting practices and their impact on grantmakers and grantseekers alike. In short, we found that the current system creates significant burdens on the time, energy and ultimate effectiveness of nonprofit practitioners.