Data Point: Is Evaluation Resulting in Meaningful Insight for Foundations?

For our recent State of Foundation Performance Assessment report, we gathered data from 173 CEOs of U.S. foundations with annual grantmaking of at least $5 million on the extent to which they conduct formal evaluations of their programmatic work. The data indicate that evaluation remains an essential component of how foundations approach assessment. More than 90 percent of CEOs report that their foundations conduct formal evaluations of their work, and a majority turns to third parties to conduct that work.

A large majority of CEOs report that formal evaluations have helped their foundations understand the effects of their programmatic work. Yet using evaluation well is not easy: fully 65 percent report that having evaluations result in meaningful insights for the foundation is a challenge.

In terms of resources, how much are foundations putting into evaluation? Most are conducting formal evaluations for half or fewer of their grants. The median spending on formal evaluation is two percent of a grantmaking budget.

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To read about current foundation CEOs’ attitudes toward assessment and what foundations are doing to understand their performance, see the report, The State of Foundation Performance Assessment: A Survey of Foundation CEOs written by Ellie Buteau, Ph.D. and Phil Buchanan and published by the Center for Effective Philanthropy.

Ellie Buteau is Vice President – Research at the Center for Effective Philanthropy.




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