October 1, 2015
To understand best and next practice in measurement and evaluation (M&E) in philanthropy, we interviewed and conducted research on more than 40 social sector and governmental organizations. We talked with M&E leaders at foundations and other organizations considered to be highperforming in M&E, as well as with field specialists with experience across a number of organizations or deep expertise in relevant areas. Our research focused on four central categories of M&E design: structure, staff, methodology and processes.Through our research, we uncovered several design characteristics that seem common to high-performing M&E units. These include: an M&E leader with high positional authority and broad expertise, methodological diversity, a focus on learning, and an evaluation focus beyond individual grants.We also found a number of design characteristics for which there is no one-size best-in-class M&E design. Instead, the aim should be to design an M&E unit that is the right fit for the organization in terms of purpose (function) and in keeping with organizational structure and culture. Therefore, to determine the best design for M&E within an organization, it is critical for that organization to be clear on its measurement purpose and to be clear-eyed on its culture.