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Benchmarking Foundation Evaluation Practices 2020

by Albertina Lopez; Julia Coffman; Katherine Athanasiades; Mariah Brothe Gantz; Tanya Beer

Jan 1, 2020

In 2019, the Center for Evaluation Innovation administered a benchmarking survey to collect data on evaluation and learning practices at foundations. This is an ongoing effort (previous surveys were conducted in 2015, 2012, and 2009) to understand evaluation functions and staff roles; the level of investment in and support of evaluation; the specific evaluative activities foundations engage in; the evaluative challenges foundations experience; and the use of evaluation information once it is collected.

The survey was sent to 354 independent and community foundations in the US and Canada reporting at least $10M in annual giving during the previous fiscal year, and to foundations that participate in the Evaluation Roundtable network (the vast majority of which meet the annual giving criterion). This report includes survey data from 161 foundations, a 45% response rate.

We conduct the survey so that foundations can compare their evaluation and learning structures and practices to those of the broader sector. The results offer a point-in-time assessment of sector practice. They do not necessarily represent "best" or even "good" practice. They do, however, offer valuable inputs on key questions, such as: How should the evaluation and learning function be staffed and resourced? What kinds of evaluative activities should be prioritized? How can evaluation and learning link to strategy?