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Funders & Evaluation: A Tension or Opportunity?

December 7th, 2018

This sentence from Prentice Zinn’s December 2017 AEA365 blog post really piqued my interest.

Zinn discusses common areas of tension such as lack of funding for evaluation and outcomes anxiety. I appreciate this perspective, and believe some tension may stem from the feeling that evaluation is a mandate rather than something grantees want to do. The difference between ‘must’ and ‘want’ is the difference between ‘tension’ and ‘willingness’.

How does the shift happen? Build a culture of evaluation.

Funders who embrace program evaluation as a learning opportunity have the chance to partner with grantees to explore continuous program improvement together.

When outcomes are created collaboratively, data collection tools are agreed upon, and grantees are compensated for the extra time required to engage in evaluation activities, tension can dissipate.

In order for this to happen though, all parties must believe that the reason for program evaluation is to learn how to best meet the needs of the people being served. There must be a mutual willingness to shift away from thinking ‘we have to do evaluation because it’s required’ to a new mindset of ‘we want to do evaluation to learn’.

For more reading about how to begin to build a culture of evaluation right now, check out our free white paper Building a Culture of Evaluation.

Now we have an amazing way to measure the physical, emotional, and mental effects of our programs...

Chari accurately captured the fundamental goals and mission of our organization and transformed our input into a clear evaluation process that helps us assess the impact of our programs on the lives of the families that we serve. Now we have an amazing way to measure the physical, emotional, and mental effects of our programs and to guide change, ensuring that we are delivering services in the most effective way possible.

Brandi Tuck, Executive Director, Portland Homeless Family Solutions

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