Key Points

As the number of foundations has grown, the philosophies and ways of working across the sector have diversified. This variance means that there is no one right model for how a foundation’s evaluation function should be designed. It is imperative for a foundation to think carefully about how the structure, position, focus, resources, and practices of its evaluation function can best fit its own needs and aspirations.

This article focuses on questions foundations can ask to assess that fit, and the specific considerations that can inform these decisions. It draws on 2015 benchmarking research conducted by the Center for Evaluation Innovation and Center for Effective Philanthropy to demonstrate how foundations across the sector are approaching these issues.

This article also identifies common areas of misalignment between what foundations need and how they are spending their evaluation time and resources. For foundations that are new to evaluation, these are misalignments to avoid. For those experienced with evaluation, they are reminders of what to heed as practices are examined.