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Bending Art and Culture Towards Justice: The Ford Foundation’s Creativity and Free Expression Arts and Culture Program Investments in Diverse Creative Communities

December 12, 2022

What lessons can we learn about how change happens for arts organizations and networks that center People of Color and disabled artists, cultural producers, and executive leaders, especially those who have been further marginalized by sexism, heterosexism and xenophobia? What is the influence of a $230 million investment in their stability, their ability to expand their base of support and their lasting impact on the artists whose voices and cultural contributions they lift up?The Ford Foundation's Creativity and Free Expression Arts and Culture (CFE A&C) strategy discussion began in the Fall of 2015 and targeted goals of shifting "entrenched cultural narratives" that were embedded in and driving cultural norms. The early theory of change was to actually expand the scope of mainstream ideals to include content by underrepresented creators – shifting their status from the margins into the realm of being visible and seen in the mainstream. The 'margins to the mainstream' strategy has evolved over time to center the empowerment of People of Color creators and those with disabilities. The construct of 'mainstream ideals' has shifted from including content by these artists as part of the mainstream to influencing who has voice and who is widely recognized and valued as the mainstream.This report, based on research conducted from December 2021 to April 2022, summarizes key observations and strategic considerations from an in-depth evaluation of the strategy implemented by the Ford Foundation to support CFE A&C grantees, a strategy set in motion pre-pandemic. The purpose of Ford's evaluations is not focused on holding individual grantees accountable for complex social change outcomes, and instead seeks to prioritize learning; and, more specifically, to learn about how change happens and share lessons externally. Part of that learning centers not only on whether current approaches are having the desired impact, but also on whether modifications to the approaches or other internal factors might yield even greater impact.

Creativity & Free Expression Journalism Program Evaluation: 2016-2021

December 7, 2022

Since its launch in 2015, the Ford Foundation's Creativity and Free Expression (CFE) program has worked collaboratively to invest in creative organizations and storytellers shaping a more inclusive, just world across three areas of focus: Arts and Culture, Journalism, and documentary filmmaking through its JustFilms initiative. To assess impact and alignment with the changing needs of the field, the foundation is conducting a series of evaluations around each area of focus under the CFE program. This evaluation report on the CFE journalism strategy, distributed by Impact Architects, is one in a series of three evaluations to explore how arts and creative sectors can address inequality and advance justice.

Our Journey in Philanthropy: Lessons from three decades of funding at MAVA

November 30, 2022

After 28 years as a grant-making foundation, and as we enter our final weeks, we wanted to share our day-to-day experience at MAVA. We started doing this just over a year ago through our various learning products. But beyond the technical and partnership aspects, what are the main lessons we have learnt from our work as a donor?The 23-page publication 'Our Journey in Philanthropy: Lessons from three decades of funding at MAVA' illustrates – in the form of infographics – a summary of the history of the MAVA Foundation and the three successive phases of its structuring. It then presents the eight main lessons that we have learnt from our work as a donor and that we wish to share with the philanthropy sector. These lessons address the topics of collaboration, partners' expertise, donors' levers for action, and the role of foundations in the global system. In addition to describing each of these lessons, we provide elements of practice and an overall recommendation.

From “Innovation for Localization” to “Local Philanthropy, Localization and Power”

November 17, 2022

n 2021, five organizations – Save the Children Denmark, Network for Empowered Aid Response (NEAR), West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI), STAR Ghana Foundation (SGF) and the Global Fund for Community Foundations (GFCF) participated in an ambitious and experimental joint project.The aim of the project was to "test durable, locally rooted funding mechanisms" in Somalia and Ghana, with the broader purpose of contributing – by demonstration – to efforts within the international humanitarian aid and development sector to transform and localize aid. The purpose of this learning report, curated by the GFCF, is to capture some of the main insights and reflections ofthe participating organizations and to consider the broader implications of and lessons from the project. It focuses on the experiences of those involved and the larger question of how unorthodox configurations of actors and new and different kinds of partnerships might contribute towards transformative change within the international aid system. 

Funding Narrative Change, An Assessment and Framework

September 7, 2022

Narrative change has become a popular focus with growing urgency to change public narratives around issues like racial justice, health equity, abortion rights, and rights for trans people. But because this area of work is relatively new for funders, the work is often siloed, leading to a lack of meaningful results. This report's authors propose a framework for funders and practitioners to shift narratives via mass culture, mass media, and mass movements.

Insights from Hewlett Foundation’s Performing Arts OE-EID Grants

August 31, 2022

In 2019, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation Performing Arts Program, in collaboration with a community advisory council, awarded a round of 39 grants to support Bay Area performing arts organizations in building their capacity around equity, inclusion, and diversity (referred to as the Organizational Effectiveness - Equity, Inclusion and Diversity or OE-EID grants) through a participatory grantmaking process.To reflect on this round of grants, the Performing Arts Program engaged Community Wealth Partners to conduct an assessment. The assessment process engaged a group of 10 leaders whose organizations had received an OE-EID grant as a grantee learning team to make meaning of data from grant reports and develop recommendations for the foundation based on the data and their own experiences. The Performing Arts Program and Community Wealth Partners chose this approach because it would focus on the perspectives of grantees, yield more detailed information about grantees' experiences than what was included in the grant reports, and create an opportunity for two-way conversation between the Performing Arts Program and grantees about promising practices and implications for the future.This document shares quantitative findings from a review of 26 final grant reports1 (from the 39 grants made) as well as insights and recommendations that came out of the work of the grantee learning team.

Strengthening Domestic Violence Services for Deaf Survivors: An Evaluation of Barrier Free Living’s Deaf Services Program

August 25, 2022

More than 11 million people in the United States are Deaf, deaf, hard of hearing, late-deafened, or Deaf-Blind. Research indicates deaf people report experiencing victimization at higher rates, but a lack of accessible resources and trauma-informed services for American Sign Language (ASL) speakers makes it difficult for deaf people to report crimes and access support. In response to these issues, the Manhattan District Attorney's Office in 2017 began funding Barrier Free Living (BFL), a provider of services for survivors of domestic violence and their families, to increase access to direct services for deaf survivors and increase local stakeholders' awareness of deaf survivors' needs through its Deaf Services (DS) program.In 2019, Urban, in collaboration with Gallaudet University and NORC at the University of Chicago, began a multimethod process evaluation of BFL's DS program to document its implementation and assess to what extent it achieved its intended goals. 

Some Lessons from Participatory Grantmaking and Meditations on Power for the Field

July 26, 2022

In 2019, the Fund for Shared Insight, a national funder collaborative seeking to improve philanthropy by promoting high-quality listening and feedback in service of equity, created a participatory process of design, grantmaking, and implementation. The full initiative is still underway, but at this moment, we, Shared Insight's learning and evaluation partner, want to reflect on and share back what we are learning from extant data review, observations of meetings and events, conversations with staff, and data collected at up to three time points from those involved in the participatory processes. While there are many useful lessons to learn about how to do participatory grantmaking and what was learned specifically around issues of climate for people in the regions of focus, one of our unique areas of inquiry was to hear directly from those involved about how they felt about shifts in power through the process. We noticed some divergence in perspectives that we thought worthy of exploration. Given the focus on learning from this work, this report is less a full accounting of all lessons and outcomes and more a deeper look to help the funder collaborative and the field grapple with questions around power based on the lessons from this participatory grantmaking initiative.

Walton Family Foundation COVID Relief Fund Evaluation Final Report

June 13, 2022

In March 2020, the Walton Family Foundation established an emergency grant fund to quickly deploy resources to grantees and communities in response to the significant and evolving effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. The $35 million fund was designed to support organizations across all three of WFF's Program Areas (Education, Environment, and Home Region).The Foundation's Strategy, Learning, and Evaluation Department (SLED) and Public Profit, an evaluation and strategy firm, conducted a retrospective evaluation to learn more about the experience of the emergency grantmaking process and the impact of the COVID Relief Fund grants on grantees and communities. 

Making sense of a strategy that never was: Lessons from an OSF program

June 13, 2022

 This brief summarizes the lessons learnt along the way, offering both insights from experience and practical tools for strategy design. Our aim in sharing these lessons is to equip funders and civil society organizations to embrace complexity and to inspire deeper engagement with culture, communications, and other key elements that are critical to bringing any strategy to lifeThe Economic Justice Program (EJP) of the Open Society Foundations ran from 2018 until the end of December 2021. During this time EJP developed the Foundations' first-ever strategy dedicated to fighting economic injustice and advanced approaches to good grantmaking for social change. Due to organizational changes, the strategy was never implemented as designed. But it was successful by many other measures; in the words of one staff member: "Despite numerous moments when many of us (definitely me) wondered if it might not actually be possible, we truly became a team, with a strategy and a culture we all believed in." Read or download the full report through the DOI link to the right.

Evaluation of the Hewlett Foundation’s Sub-Strategy to Support Local Family Planning and Reproductive Health Advocacy in Sub-Saharan Africa

March 10, 2022

In 2016, the Hewlett Foundation launched its international reproductive health strategy to support local advocacy in sub-Saharan Africa. This strategy continued the foundation's focus on ensuring that women can decide whether and when to have children. The strategy had an ambitious goal: A vibrant sector of local civil society organizations (CSOs) in sub-Saharan Africa that can capably and positively influence the family planning and reproductive health (FPRH) policies and funding decisions of their own national governments and of international donors. To contribute towards this goal, the strategy was grounded in five principles that the foundation expected would inform its own practices as well as the practices of grantees and their CSO partners:Support local advocacy priorities while seeking opportunities to connect these to global advocacy efforts,Strengthen and provide more hands-on and sustained technical assistance tailored to each organization,Support longer-term advocacy partnerships that strengthen and support local advocacy capacity,Encourage mutual accountability among all parties: funders, intermediaries, and local partners, andMeasure progress, document, adapt and share what is learned.The foundation commissioned a five-year developmental evaluation to identify and share emergent lessons about this "principles-based approach" throughout the process of strategy implementation. In this report, we summarize key findings, lessons, and recommendations from the final data collection period of this learning and evaluation process (September 2020 - July 2021). Our analysis draws on interviews with the foundation's grantees and their CSO partners, foundation staff, civil society leaders in Africa, and peer funders, as well as a "context review" of trends and developments in the broader philanthropic and international development field in which the strategy was situated.

Shifting the Evaluation Paradigm: The Equitable Evaluation Framework

April 30, 2021

This publication provides an overview of the impetus for the Equitable Evaluation Framework™ (EEF) and attempts to document early moments and first steps of engagement with U.S. philanthropic institutions — most often their research, evaluation and learning staff — whom we refer to as foundation partners throughout this publication. The themes shared in this publication surfaced through conversations with a group of foundation staff who have been part of the Equitable Evaluation Project, now referred to as the Equitable Evaluation Initiative (EEI), since 2017 as advisors, investment partners and/or practice partners.These are not case studies but insights and peeks behind the curtains of six foundation practice partners. It is our hope that, in reading their experiences, you will find something that resonates, be it a point of view, a mindset or a similar opportunity in your place of work.