It informs our work. Evaluations provide knowledge about what works and what doesn’t, thus enhancing our programmatic efforts and informing our decisions.
It improves understanding in philanthropy. Evaluations allow our colleagues to benefit from our grantees' experiences and improvements.
It demonstrates accountability and transparency. Evaluations allow others to hold us accountable and understand our work by providing a direct source of information about the impact of our grantmaking.
It strengthens organizations. Evaluation helps our grantees identify, sustain, and improve promising practices. This makes them stronger and more effective by encouraging self-reflection and organizational improvement.
Most of our grantmaking initiatives include rigorous evaluation procedures. We also conduct an annual foundation-wide assessment to measure our progress against our organizational goals.
We approach each evaluation based on a variety of factors, including the type of activities, set of grantees, level of funding, and stage-of-life for the initiative being evaluated. The principles highlighted on the right help guide our evaluation design. In addition, our Evaluation Policies and Guidelines provide more detail about the broader purpose and role of evaluation at the Foundation, what criteria we use for undertaking evaluations, and how our program staff is involved in evaluation activities.
We usually contract with external evaluators. In cases where specialized research skills are not needed, however, Irvine staff conduct the evaluations. These evaluations may include site visits, observation, interviews, surveys, review of grantee reports, and dissemination of findings.
The majority of our evaluations focus on Irvine's program initiatives — clusters of grants with common strategies and goals. By conducting evaluations at this level, we can offer individual grantees a broader perspective and an opportunity to learn from other organizations doing similar work and facing similar challenges. Many of our evaluations begin early in the initiative process and include interim reports so that participants can adapt and refine their activities while the initiative is under way.
The Foundation is committed to sharing the results from our evaluations, including both the achievements and shortcomings. We post evaluation reports on our website, and we distribute the results to grantees, others who work in the field being evaluated, and other funders. Our goals are to improve understanding in the field and to demonstrate how the Foundation is learning from and improving its work.
Evaluations for current program strategies can be found in their respective sections of the website. Below are program evaluations for funding initiatives that are no longer active.
In order to define how the Foundation should track its progress and measure its impact, we developed a six-part framework, summarized on the right, to assess progress toward advancing Irvine's mission and its organizational goals. This approach is fully described in the Assessment Framework: An Overview, which also provides details about our goals and assumptions.
Check out highlights of our foundation-wide performance in our interactive 2014 Year in Review.