Foundation investment in evaluation has increased in recent years, but philanthropy has yet to reap the full benefit. In many foundations, evaluation has only a marginal role and is seen exclusively in terms of measurement at the end of funded programs. In her paper, The Evaluation Conversation: A Path to Impact for Foundation Boards and Executives, Patricia A. Patrizi challenges foundation leaders to rethink the role of evaluation, and turn it into a vital institutional tool to achieve philanthropic purpose and improve strategy.
How can this be done? Patrizi urges foundation leaders to launch an evaluation conversation, in which CEOs and board members, assisted by evaluators, engage in an ongoing, collaborative inquiry that explores the key questions that underlie a foundation’s investments: What are we trying to accomplish? What can we do that has the greatest probability of getting us there? What is already known about how to get there? Are we committed to following through and making adjustments in programs, if needed? Are we willing to talk about our failures, as well as our achievements? The goal is to create more accumulated knowledge, more purposeful evaluation, and better information for better decisions.