Improving Evaluation at Foundations

The Evaluation Roundtable gathers foundations together and reports on foundation practices

“The Evaluation Roundtable has served an important role within philanthropy. Through its grounding in the practice of philanthropic evaluation, it has created a strong and active community of practitioners.”—Patti Patrizi, MA

Dates of Project: June 2006 through September 2012

Field of Work: Building foundation effectiveness

Problem Synopsis: There are numerous, competing agendas for evaluation in most foundations. Evaluation may be implemented as a tool for accountability, capacity building in the field, staff development, strategy development, or organizational learning. In addition, the use of evaluation has remained somewhat tangential to the core work or mission of most foundations. Resources are often allocated to evaluation units on a project-by-project basis, without consideration of how evaluation might contribute to the achievement of the institution's overall goals.

Synopsis of the Work: Since 1998, the Evaluation Roundtable has served as a resource to foundation directors of evaluation and program leadership involved in building foundation effectiveness. Between June 2006 and September 2012 consultants from Patrizi Associates convened four Evaluation Roundtables, one mini-Evaluation Roundtable, and one workshop with evaluation and program staff from foundations across the United States and prepared for a fifth held in December 2012. Project leaders also conducted a benchmarking study in 2009 of foundations’ use of evaluative information.

Key Results:
The 2009 benchmarking study found that while the role of evaluation has expanded in recent years, particularly in developing a foundation's program strategy, the support for evaluative activities appeared to be decreasing.

By 2012, Evaluation Roundtable leaders had institutionalized the roundtable by:

  • Creating an Internet presence with an Evaluation Roundtable website
  • Establishing an institutional home for the Evaluation Roundtable at the Center for Evaluation Innovation
  • Establishing a network of foundation evaluation leaders that seeks to improve how foundations learn about the results of their grantmaking and increase the impact of their work

The Evaluation Roundtable, now housed at the Center for Evaluation Innovation, holds next meeting Dec 2013

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