Prepared September 2009, with thanks to Mayur Patel, Director of Strategic Assessment and Impact
Approach to assessment
- Evaluation is focused on learning, improvement and planning; understanding what obstacles projects faced, what was effective and why.
- Evaluation is designed to inform and improve the foundation’s decision-making about resource allocation.
- An emphasis is placed on providing timely and actionable feedback to grantees and program staff.
Structure of assessment function
- The evaluation unit and communications unit have a combined staff of 5 out of a total of 50.
- The evaluation unit partners with program staff to develop evaluation plans for individual grants, especially those that have great strategic relevance for the foundation and have the potential to advance the field.
- Program staff conduct most of the monitoring and evaluation at the grant level.
- External evaluators are used to provide technical assistance to individual grantees and to conduct cluster evaluations at a portfolio level.
- Portfolio level assessments are used to improve the foundation’s initiative planning and implementation.
- The foundation does not use an overall organizational level scorecard.
Measurement and criteria
- Qualitative and quantitative results are used and both are valued highly.
- In designing new initiatives, the foundation works with external consultants and other experts to brainstorm possible metrics.
- At the individual grant level, staff and grantees work together to clarify the project’s goals, surface its assumptions, identify possible risks and contingencies and refine a set of indicators to be tracked over time.
- Formative evaluations and ongoing interim reviews are used, as well as post hoc evaluations at the conclusion of a grant.
Use of information
- Evaluation materials are posted on the website and shared widely with the assistance of the communications unit.
- For initiative and cluster level evaluations, grantees are brought together to discuss the results of interim and final reports.
- Evaluation results are reviewed internally with program staff to identify the implications for future strategy.