Data That’s Meaningful…

I recently read a highly recommended article by Fay Twersky in the Chronicle of Philanthropy, titled “Keep Charity Evaluation Tests Relevant to the Needs of the People Served“.

Fay, a senior advisor to the Hewlett Foundation, is one of the smartest people in the nonprofit sector. She has tremendous experience in small and large scale evaluation. We learned a lot from her and her partner, Jill Blair, when they did some consulting with us here at the Fund several years ago.

In this op-ed piece in the most recent issue of the Chronicle of Philanthropy, Fay cuts thru some polarizing rhetoric about how to approach assessing nonprofit effectiveness. As Fay sees it,

“Evaluation is fundamentally about finding the best ways to help nonprofits do their jobs better. And to do that well, evaluators need to listen carefully to the people working on the ground, understand their ambitions and values, and provide data to answer their most pressing questions.”

I agree completely.

It’s not always relevant or feasible to reduce program effectiveness to a number (e.g., return on investment), as can be done in the for-profit sector. But, the flip side is not to dismiss the need to have high quality data to determine program and organizational effectiveness.

As I told Fay after I read this piece, she brings “perfect pitch” to this important discussion. Subscribers can read the entire piece here.


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