There are a lot of interesting data in the recent Benchmarking Foundation Evaluation Practices report, co-authored by the Center for Effective Philanthropy and the Center for Evaluation Innovation. There is useful, practical information on how foundations structure their evaluation operations, how much they spend on evaluation, the kinds of evaluations they commission, and so forth. Great stuff.
But some findings give me pause. Perhaps the most sobering statistic in the report is that very few foundations consistently share their evaluations with their grantees, other foundations, or the public. Only 28 percent share their evaluations “quite a bit or a lot” with their grantees. And that drops to 17 percent for sharing with other foundations, and only 14 percent for sharing with the general public.
Really? Why are we not sharing the lessons from the evaluations we commission?
It feels wrong.
After all, why would we not share?
Are we worried about our stock price falling? No. We don’t have a stock price.
Are we worried about causing undue harm to specific organizations? There are ways to share key lessons from evaluations without naming specific organizations.
Do we believe that others don’t care about our evaluations or our findings? Time and again, foundation leaders list assessment and evaluation as high on the list of things they need to get better at.
Are reports too technical? That can be a challenge, but again, there are ways to share an executive summary — or commission an easy to read summary — that is not a heavy, overly technical report.
So, the main question is, why commission an evaluation if you are going to keep the lessons all to yourself? Is that charitable?
Fay Twersky is director of the Effective Philanthropy Group at The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. Follow her on Twitter at @FayDTwersky.
Download Benchmarking Foundation Evaluation Practices here.