Evaluation is what you do with partners, not to them

Posted by on Apr 12, 2017 in Articles, Blog | 0 comments


By Jeff Glebocki, Founder & Lead Advisor
Strategy + Action/Philanthropy


The National Network of Consultants to Grantmakers invited me to present a webinar this month on evaluation – “Are We Making a Difference in Our Philanthropy?  Exploring Low-Cost, High-Value Tools for Evaluation.”  In this April newsletter, I wanted to highlight a theme from the webinar that doesn’t get enough attention in philanthropy.


Let me get right to the point – when foundations consider how best to learn if their strategies and their grant partners’ work is making a difference, it’s absolutely essential to design and conduct evaluations together.  It’s been said a thousand times before and it bears repeating that evaluation is about how to improve not prove.

  • Engage your grant partners early on.  You have specific interests about what you want to learn; ask your partners what they want to learn as well.  Evaluation can strengthen your funding strategies and make your partners’ efforts (and your grant support) even more effective and efficient by learning together.
  • Anticipate their anxiety.  No one relishes the thought of being put under the proverbial microscope to be judged.  And since that’s not the purpose of your evaluation (is it?), put yourself in their shoes and reframe the conversation.   For example, an evaluation of an organization’s parent engagement approach is not to discover shortcomings.  It’s about learning how to reach and involve parents more substantively and for more sustainable outcomes.
  • Don’t burden your partners.  Seek only the information you and they will really use to strengthen and improve your mutual efforts.  It can be tempting to pursue and collect lots of interesting information, but consider focusing on generating knowledge instead.


Learn more about evaluation and how we’ve assisted grantmakers and their partners in strengthening their respective endeavors.

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