Key Points

This article explores what it looks like when a foundation attempts to integrate accountability and learning practices, and presents a framework for the unique and complementary contributions that accountability and learning can make to the work of foundations.

The article also looks at the tensions that can arise when a foundation’s internal evaluation staff attempt to design, implement, and make use of accountability systems. Specifically, it identifies three problematic perspectives that can hold foundations back from full engagement in internally driven accountability initiatives, and offers practical guidance on how to shift these mindsets to more productive practices.

It concludes by calling on evaluation and program staff, foundation leaders, and board members to address the structural, cultural, and mental barriers to constructive accountability systems in philanthropy. In doing so, the authors hope to prompt reflection and action that will strengthen foundation practice and support greater philanthropic impact.

Open Access