“We started off where many of your respondents started, which was having an intention around evaluation, wanting to know more. It’s not our core business. Our core business is not being evaluators—our core business is teaching kids how to play and get along with each other on the playground—so it’s not surprising that we weren’t good at it.”
– Elizabeth Cushing
On January 30, 2013, the Center for Effective Philanthropy hosted a panel discussion titled Dispelling the Myth of Nonprofit Complacency, sponsored by the James Irvine Foundation. Panelists included CEP Research Manager Andrea Brock, REDF President Carla Javits, and Playworks CEO & Chief Operating Officer Elizabeth Cushing. The event was moderated by Kevin Rafter, manager of research & evaluation at the James Irvine Foundation.
The discussion was based on findings from CEP’s report, Room for Improvement: Foundations’ Support of Nonprofit Performance Assessment, which was released in September 2012. One of the major myths this report was able to examine is that nonprofits don’t care about performance assessment. Nonprofit leaders surveyed for the report stated that they do in fact care about assessment, but cited a general lack of support—both nonmonetary and monetary—from their funders.
Elizabeth Cushing shared how Playworks came to grips with what they needed in terms of assessment and what they wanted to measure. She explained that assessment can often be extrinsically motivated and explained how Playworks was able to make this an integral part of their work with help from their funders.
Carla Javits discussed how REDF approaches performance assessment from both the funder and grantee perspective. To combat what may seem an initial resistance among grantees, for example, Carla said funders need to give grantees both the time and space to think it through, as well as offer the resources for them to do so.
Panelists spoke candidly on the apparent disconnect between what funders think and what nonprofits are saying, alluding to a greater need for more effective communication between funders and grantees.
We hope you’ll listen to the full discussion here and take the time to think about how you might improve some elements of your own funder-grantee relationships.
Addy Ashiru is Senior Coordinator of Communications, Programming, and Development at the Center for Effective Philanthropy.