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Developing your learning and evaluation plan: A workbook to support your grant recipients

December 6, 2021

Many traditional grant application forms require nonprofits to include evaluation plans as part of their submission. We know that this part of the application is often one of the most challenging sections for applicants to complete. We also know that funders often find the information provided in this section to be less useful than they had hoped. One of the reasons why this section doesn't always work well is that it tends to focus on the technical details of a measurement plan without first exploring the why of that plan, i.e., what the grantee hopes to learn and why those insights are important. This workbook includes worksheets designed to draw out and clarify the learning goals associated with a proposed project before turning to the measurement plan. We hope it will lead to conversations between the funder and grant recipient about what really matters.

Aproaches to Learning Amid Crises: Reflections from Philanthropy

March 29, 2021

Early 2020 sparked an urgency for foundations to work equitably and adapt quickly, while also reflecting deeply on their roles in society and the alignment between their operations and values. The covid-19 pandemic and murder of George Floyd have brought to the forefront the long-held assumptions about how foundations should work and be held accountable. Many foundations have begun to explore significant changes to their practices. Along the way, they have also been forced to learn, reflect, and adapt in unprecedented ways. We wanted to know whether developing an organizational learning culture yields benefits in terms of better evaluation outcomes as well as stronger more adaptive decision-making.In interviews with seven foundations from Canada and the U.S. in the summer and fall of 2020, we spent time applying the lens of organizational learning to how each of these foundations made sense of their reality, asked different kinds of questions to inform their thinking, and acted in new or different ways as a result.In our report: Approaches to Learning Amid Crises: Reflections from Philanthropy, we lift up examples of how foundations have reacted and specifically what and how they are learning. 

Outil d’autoévaluation de l’apprentissage organisationnel

March 23, 2021

18 questions pour autoévaluer la culture d'apprentissage de votre organisation et déterminer les mesures à prendre.Ce document est une traduction de l'outil Organizational Learning Self-Assessment Tool – 18 questions to self-assess your organization's learning culture and identify steps for action publié en 2019 par Taylor Newberry Consulting. Il a été traduit par Territoires innovants en économie sociale et solidaire (TIESS) avec la permission des auteurs. 

Organizational Learning Question Bank

January 1, 2019

This Question Bank offers users the ability to draw from a variety of questions that can help to inform and start a dialogue with grant applicants or recipients on their learning culture and goals. Some of these questions can be used in a grant application template or in a more informal conversation with a potential grant recipient. They may also be useful internally for discussing or reviewing a grant application.

Organizational Learning Self-Assessment Tool

January 1, 2019

This 18-question self-assessment tool is meant to help organizations to identify and assess the state of learning in their organization. This tool is a starting point for discussion that can help identify areas of strength as well as areas for improvement.

Achieving Greater Impact by Starting with Learning

September 12, 2018

When grantmakers ask the organizations they fund about their evaluation plans, they are typically motivated by a desire to achieve the greatest impact possible through their investment. They often hope to help the organizations they fund to do the same. However, these conversations sometimes veer off track, especially when nonprofits feel pressure to produce evaluation results that align with funders' preconceived ideas. Evaluation can turn into a tool for accountability and risk management rather than a tool for learning. One way to prevent this dynamic from developing is to make sure that grantmakers and grant recipients talk with one another about why they are interested in evaluating a particular project before they get into discussions of what should be measured and how data collection tools should be used.This guide explores strategies that grantmakers can use to lay the groundwork for meaningful evaluation by focusing on learning rather than measurement early in the grant application process. We begin by defining what a learning culture or learning organization means and why it is important. Then, we discuss some of the key elements of learning organizations. Lastly, we outline some principles for grantmakers to help guide the development of a learning relationship with future grant recipients.

Collaborative Evaluation Approaches: A How-To Guide For Grantmakers

January 1, 2018

The purpose of this guide is to provide grantmakers who support the nonprofit sector with practical guidance about how to take a more collaborative approach to evaluation. When we use the term grantmaker, we are referring to non-governmental funders that provide financial support to nonprofit groups including United Ways, corporate, public, and private foundations.

Making Evaluation Work in the Nonprofit Sector: A Call for Systemic Change

July 25, 2017

This position paper is a call for systemic changes that will create an ecosystem within which it is straightforward, efficient, and rewarding for nonprofits and funders to invest in evaluation work. It is also intended to further critical conversations to build a nonprofit sector that is more responsive, accountable, and focused on the best ways to support the communities in which they work.

Matching Evaluation Approaches to Expectations

February 7, 2017

In the nonprofit sector, evaluation is a word that gets used a lot. Different kinds of data gathering approaches with different purposes sometimes get lumped together under the general heading of evaluation. This can lead to miscommunication and unrealistic expectations. To try to clear things up a bit, we have created this resource.

Learning Together: Five Important Discussion Questions to Make Evaluation Useful

October 28, 2016

This guide is meant to help you articulate more clearly what you want to get out of an evaluation and what concerns you may have about the process. It is meant as a conversation starter and is a means to open up a dialogue with your stakeholders in a subject area that can be complex and difficult. That's why we have developed this discussion guide. It provides tips about how to ask these questions in different contexts, the challenges that can come up, and what to do about them.

Principles to Help Us Get to Useful Evaluation

August 9, 2016

We know nonprofit leaders have a lot on their plates and an evaluation that is not seen as useful can be one more burden they have to bear. We also know that sometimes, particularly for those who may not have as much experience with evaluation, it can be difficult to identify what is causing the frustration. Our hope is that these principles can be used by you as a reference. For example, if you're feeling that an evaluation isn't working the way you think it should but aren't quite sure why, these principles might help you to identify where the problems might be. It might even help you the next time you have a conversation with your evaluation stakeholders about what you need in order to overcome your challenges.

Exploring the Issues: An Evaluation Literature Review

January 21, 2016

Finding ways to make evaluation more meaningful and more useful has been a key theme in the evaluation literature since the discipline began, and there is no shortage of discussion around improving evaluation among nonprofit practitioners. The topic has been a highlight at ONN's annual conference in recent years.However, much of the discussion around improving evaluation focuses on methodology, tools, and indicators.There has been less attention paid to who is asking and determining the questions of evaluation, such as who evaluation is for and what is its purpose. Consequently, the purpose of this background paper is to review the literature on evaluation use with a particular focus on systemic factors. In other words, we are interested in looking at the relationship between evaluation practice and the overall structure and function of the nonprofit sector in Ontario.We're interested in the policies and regulations that guide us, the roles played by various actors, theassumptions we make, the language we use, and the ways in which resources move through the sector. We're examining the purposes that evaluation serves, both overt and implicit. We want to learn more about the factors that make evaluations really useful, the issues that can get in the way of evaluations being useful, and ideas for improvement. Ultimately, our goal in this paper is to generate a broad vision to inform our project's final outcomes.