Have You Looked at Yourself? Foundations Can Do a Better Job of Self-Evaluation

Meeting to explore the role and benefits of foundation evaluation

In March 2000, Patricia Patrizi, a consultant in Wyncote, Pa., organized an Evaluation Roundtable.

It took place March 9–10, 2000, in Washington. The 17 attendees included directors of evaluation and representatives from 12 foundations and the Council on Foundations, which hosted the gathering.

The meeting organizers invited four experts in evaluation to make presentations that served as the basis for discussions at the meeting.

Key Findings

In meeting proceedings, the organizers presented a number of conclusions, drawn from the participants' discussions, about the nature of evaluation in foundations today:

  • There are numerous, competing agendas for evaluation in most foundations.
  • Few foundations have established clear standards of performance for themselves, or their staffs.
  • The use of evaluation has remained somewhat tangential to the core work or mission of most foundations.

The organizers also identified a number of key evaluation principles that were suggested (but not formally endorsed) by the participants' discussions:

  • The role of management is crucial to the success of evaluation.
  • Evaluation must reach for a certain level of "process integrity."
  • Evaluation needs to draw on the support of its profession to assert and diffuse standards of evaluation quality.
  • Evaluation must be aligned with the core purpose and values of the foundation.
  • Evaluation should be able to contribute to strategic discussions and help a foundation assess the value of its work.


The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) supported the project with a grant of $50,000 between August 1999 and August 2000.

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