As we finish up yet another informative and exciting GMN ... err … PEAK Grantmaking conference in Hollywood and head back to our day jobs, I’m left reflecting on my experiences talking to and learning from a crowd of really smart people, committed to solving some really important issues in society.
It’s no secret that grantmakers continue to struggle with how to approach evaluation and create a path towards more meaningful and informative impact measurement. With good reason! This is tough work.
There are many misconceptions that obfuscate the impact evaluation landscape, leaving many foundations feeling disempowered and paralyzed. By busting a few of these myths, we hope to clear the way for grantmakers to shake that paralysis and take the first steps on a meaningful impact evaluation journey.
Last week, two powerhouse philanthropic data conferences merged under the Stanford University’s Center for Philanthropy and Civil Society (PACS) and Social Innovation Review (SSIR) umbrella. The two-day Data on Purpose / Do Good Data conference brought together academics, practitioners, and data experts from across the for- and nonprofit sectors to discuss data issues in a civil society, including various sessions on the effective and ethical use of data, creating a data culture, and collaborations around data. I came away with a new understanding of philanthropy's newest dilemma.
More Than Words: Key Takeaways from J.P. Morgan and the “How” of Measurement and Impact in Philanthropy
That’s why a recent event hosted by The Philanthropy Centre at J.P Morgan in San Francisco was such a breath of fresh air. The gathering, How to Maximize Philanthropic Impact, was squarely focused on ensuring that the ideas presented there moved beyond just “talk.”
David Goodman participated on the Vendor Plenary Panel at the 2016 Technology Affinity Group (TAG) annual conference, where he first discussed his views on data, evaluation, and the sometimes over-emphasis on "impact" in philanthropy.
While my background is in research and evaluation, I’ve spent a great deal of time working with foundations and nonprofits to build their capacity to understand and use research and evaluation. I’m very excited to be able to bring my experience to the philanthropic sector at a time when there is a growing realization that it can benefit from the expertise of researchers and evaluators from other fields or disciplines.
This is a good thing. It gets me out of bed in the morning.
Yet, as much as I am excited about the emphasis on data, measurement, and impact, there is also a part of me that wants to pause – just for a moment – to talk about the disproportionate emphasis on “impact” alone.
Any time the philanthropic sector has an opportunity to learn more about each other and the work that we do, we all benefit. A perfect example is the latest report from the Center for Effective Philanthropy, Benchmarking Foundation Evaluation Practices.
The key takeaway: The sector has limited capacity to take on meaningful evaluation. And foundations bypass developmental or formative evaluation at their own risk. Without undertaking this important work up front, capacity for evaluation practices will remain woefully inadequate.
First off, what does it really mean to be data-driven? And secondly, how do you get there? Two great questions I’ve thought a lot about. In fact, I asked folks from more than 100 foundations the same questions.
Several themes developed and a roadmap of proven strategies emerged.