Key Points

Despite broad consensus among foundations on the value of capturing grant outcomes, there is no consensus on what to evaluate and how to define success, which makes it difficult for staff and grantees to navigate and apply multiple interpretations of evaluation “best practices.”

This article presents three questions designed to help foundations develop a framework for grant evaluation that reflects their beliefs about accountability and learning, balances evaluation costs and benefits, acknowledges the diversity of grants within the foundation’s portfolio, and allows their grantees to understand the foundation’s expectations for evaluation reporting.

A key takeaway from this article, drawn from insights shared by CEOs and program officers representing 17 foundations in Pennsylvania’s Allegheny County, is that foundation boards should not feel constrained to adopt uniform evaluation practices for all grants. This serves as a discussion guide, providing a starting point for conversations about the purpose of evaluation for each type of grant, along with a range of possible evaluation processes and criteria