By Suzanne Leahy, EHF’s Evaluation Officer
Sometimes evaluation creates a negative impression, especially when it is imposed and offers little actionable insight. But when evaluation is applied well, it can offer an important set of tools to all of us working to improve the health of the communities where we live, work and play. At EHF, we have an evaluation and learning system well underway to support us in our key areas of work: grant-making, congregational engagement, research and convening.
Like other types of organizations, foundations are increasingly being asked to evaluate contributions to shared impact. This of course assumes that foundations are contributing a social good beyond the mere financing of social interventions. The questions we seek to answer through evaluation center on strategy: the stewardship of foundation resources, the quality and achievements of EHF programs and other investments, and the pathways to change systems as EHF works to advance the health of its 57 Texas counties.
Our evaluation “platform” focuses on answering key questions about these three areas. Over the last year and a half, we’ve made significant strides in implementing the platform. Earlier this year, EHF program teams worked with our evaluation and learning officers to review early evaluation data, discuss insights and share lessons learned with EHF leadership, staff and our Board.
In the near future, you may be asked to participate in a survey about EHF’s grant-making, congregational engagement or other areas of work. We’re committed to listening to our community partners and learning from them. We recognize that effective partnerships are an essential basis for shared impact.
The Center for Effective Philanthropy’s Grantee Perception Report (GPR) is a core part of EHF’s impact evaluation. The GPR collects confidential data from foundation grantees across the country, and the results will allow EHF to benchmark its performance (as rated by grant partners) on a number of philanthropic best practices. If you are a grant partner funded between January 2015 and May 2016, please look for an invitation from the Center in September to participate in EHF’s first-ever survey of grantees!
EHF also has other evaluation work underway that builds on our initial platform:
- We’re designing research, evaluation and learning agendas that reflect the strategic insights needed.
- We’re sharing what EHF has learned from a review of philanthropic evaluation and learning practices.
- We’re supporting grant partners in evaluation opportunities such as Listen for Good, a national initiative of the Fund for Shared Insight.
- Listen for Good provides financial and technical support to nominated grantees to implement the Net Promoter SystemSM (NPS®). The NPS has been widely used in customer feedback circles. This initiative supports nonprofits in building evaluation-related skills to collect, monitor and address feedback from constituents.
- We also participated in an interactive session at the Texas Evaluation Network four-day evaluation intensive conference. EHF joined colleagues from One Star Foundation and the United Way to discuss foundation perspectives on evaluation with grant partners and local evaluators.