Note from Beth: I’m hosting a small army of guest bloggers, grantmakers, who are attending the GeoFunders National Conference taking place this week in Seattle. The GEO community is united by a common drive to challenge the norm in pursuit of better results. GEO’s 2012 National Conference shares a range of perspectives and new ideas for smarter grantmaking that leads to better results and presents opportunities for participants to learn from the wisdom and experience of their peers. If you’re not attending and curious what funders are learning, you’ll have an opportunity to read some of the ideas and questions being discussed right here on this blog.
Learning in Public Challenges and Actions – guest post by Annie Hernandez
I went to the Learning in Public session expecting to hear that the process the Packard Foundation used to evaluate their capacity building work was wildly successful. In true GEO style, Kathy Reich and Jared Raynor, the evaluator from TCC Group shared what worked and what didn’t…and what they plan to do in the future. Here are a few areas discussed I was challenged by:
At The Lumpkin Family Foundation, we developed our first comprehensive evaluation plan last year. In order to answer the annual questions that were developed in the plan, we compiled ALL the evaluation stuff we collect over the year and put it in one place for synthesis. It was quite impressive/overwhelming to see everything we did in the past year–evaluations by consultants, training evaluations, family member surveys, post grant evaluations, etc. While it all was synthesized, we did not use every piece of data collected. I found out that we were not alone when NO ONE in the room stood up when we were asked if our foundation uses every bit of data collected.
This session made me think about going back to the big compilation of data and taking a good look at what we used and didn’t and why. Should we stop collecting some of what we didn’t use? Should you do the same?
In the session they shared that it was better to process the findings in public versus the data. And even better was to process the findings in real time interactions. Usually, we at The Lumpkin Family Foundation engage our various stakeholders in the assessment process…and then email the final report with our synthesis of it to stakeholders and then post it on our website. A great example is our recently completed evaluation of goodWORKSconnect, our nonprofit network and resource center found here.
This session made me think about how we could try something more interactive with our recently completed grant seeker survey. We are in the process of developing the foundation action plan for how to respond to recommendations made by the external evaluators. Perhaps we could offer grantees who were asked to participate in the survey an opportunity to weigh in on and ask questions about how we plan to respond. This could also potentially open the conversation with grantees about how they are sharing their findings/lessons learned with others. Would this make sense for an evaluation you are in the process of completing?
Beth Kanter started the session sharing her definition of transparency: being open and accountable with stakeholders and sharing information you don’t want to and engage in dialogue with that. She shared some examples of how organizations are being transparent. One that stood out to me (perhaps because of my proud Indy background) was the public dashboard at the Indianapolis Museum of Art. It is the same dashboard that the Board of Directors receives.
From all the data compiled and synthesized last year, we anticipate a dashboard of sorts being developed this year. I am excited to bring the Indianapolis Museum of Arts model to the table to see what our board’s reaction would be to sharing ours as it is developed. A lot of our grantees have also been interested in and learning about dashboards. I also plan to share this transparency practice from IMA with them. Are you using a dashboard? Could it be shared in whole or part with your public?
On to day #2!
Annie Hernandez, Program Officer, The Lumpkin Family Foundation: I’m a nonprofit advocate that believes I have the best job in the world working to support people who care and make a difference.