Impact and Evaluation in Philanthropy: The Journey Beyond Quick Fixes

03/31/2016

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Like many of you, we have been hearing more and more about the need for evaluating grant outcomes and assessing the impact of philanthropic work. In fact, you cannot attend a conference, read an article, or follow a blog or anyone on Twitter these days without hearing the drumbeat for "Impact! Impact! Impact!"

At Fluxx, we are in full agreement on the need for evaluation as a means to inform funding decisions, to improve the development and implementation of grant services, and to sustain impact over time. The problem that we see, however, is that most of the guidance around assessing impact, and evaluations more generally, are "quick fixes" that lack a meaningful evaluative framework, and neglect to understand that the success and appropriateness of any evaluation are heavily influenced by the program being implemented and the capacity of the organization conducting the evaluation.

These problems are the reason why we facilitated a discussion focused on advancing data-informed philanthropy, including the importance of tracking specific outcomes, evaluating grant progress, and assessing overall impact. The insight gained during these discussions led to the development of a monitoring, learning and evaluation tool that we released to the public in 2015 as Impact Intelligence. Over the past year, initial users have provided Fluxx with valuable information about its functionality and applicability to their evaluation and assessment needs. We have continued to work closely with our partners and early adopters to ensure that Impact Intelligence is not only meaningful and appropriate for what they do and how they do it, but that it also allows all users to learn from their work and make immediate improvements to enhance and sustain impact over time.

To help inform and facilitate Fluxx’s commitment to improving the products and services we provide to our mission-driven partners, Fluxx has recently brought on wonderful expertise to our team:  Mark Bolgiano, Data Scientist, and Dr. David Goodman, Director of Impact. Previously as the VP and CIO of the Council on Foundations and Chief Enterprise Architect and Strategist at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Mark has been a thought leader for the philanthropy and nonprofit technology sectors and brings to Fluxx unparalleled experience developing strategies for the collection, development, analysis, and sharing of data and metrics in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors. At Fluxx, Mark will  help analyze, interpret, and use data and metrics to inform decision making, enhance Fluxx platforms, and assist in building data capacities of foundations.

David Goodman is a trained researcher with extensive experience leading teams in the design, implementation, and analysis of rigorous research on various public policy issues and program evaluations in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors. Previously as the Managing Director of Data Governance for Teach For America and as the Director of Evaluation and Learning for the Houston Endowment, David has worked closely with foundations and nonprofits across the country to build their capacities to understand and engage in research and evaluation and the use of data. As the Director of Impact, David will work closely with the Product team to enhance the Impact Intelligence platform and assist in building the evaluation capacities of Fluxx users as well as the broader philanthropic community.

With our newest team members, Fluxx is focused on improving the information and guidance around impact assessment and evaluations more generally. We will present a series of articles focused on reconciling some of the contradictory or inappropriate evaluation information that continues to confuse and frustrate funders and their grantees. These articles will provide credible information and effective tools to better understand critical aspects of evaluation and impact assessment that are often left out of philanthropic discussions, including the importance of building programmatic logic models, developing a culture of learning, and using both qualitative and quantitative data to tell a more complete story. The articles will also help us look beyond impact to better inform not only individual grantmaking, but also the broader philanthropic sector.  

We invite you to read the articles posted here on our blog and use the information and guidance that you find helpful. Since the real value comes from the discussions that we have as a community and the solutions that we develop and implement together, we hope that you will participate in this process. If you have any questions, comments, or recommendations, or if you want to participate in the process, please do not hesitate to contact us at impact@fluxxlabs.com. We look forward to interacting, learning, and collaborating with each of you.   

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