Key Points

Evaluation policies, which are becoming increasingly important for philanthropic foundations, communicate internally and externally about how evaluations are planned, designed, and managed. An evaluation policy also prescribes how the use of evaluation systematically reflects the mission and role of a foundation. Not much is known, however, about how evaluation policies are developed and changed in practice. Few, if any, foundations have published an evaluation of their evaluation policy.

This article, written by an external evaluator, describes how an evaluation policy was developed at a Danish grantmaker committed to supporting innovative methods in human services. Using this foundation as an example, the article answers two questions: What might an evaluation of an evaluation policy look like in practice? How did the foundation react to the evaluation and its recommendations? The process inspired reflections on strategy and identity within the foundation and initiated rethinking of the complex relations between evaluation policy and practice and of the foundation’s relations to grantees and recipients of services.

This article contributes to new insights by showing how a systematic revision of a foundation´s evaluation policy can be organized and how it can contribute to change, but also how it can lead to deeper reflections about dilemmas involving values, strategy, and foundation–grantee relations. The lessons learned may be relevant for other foundations that wish to reflect on their evaluation policy.

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