The mission of the Kronkosky Charitable Foundation is “ To produce profound good that is tangible and measurable...”. The Foundation therefore makes evaluation an integral part of the requirements for nonprofit organizations that receive grants.
Evaluation is the systematic process for gathering, analyzing and reporting information about a program or intervention for use in making decisions. Evaluation can have many purposes.
Evaluation may help an organization find out what is and is not working in its programs. The information collected can help an organization identify where changes are necessary in program activities so program goals can be better achieved. A key question for each program activity or intervention is “What is the expected progress or client change expected as the result of the efforts expended on the program activity?”. The evaluation process gathers the information necessary to determine whether expectations are being met. Most importantly, if expectations are not met then a solid evaluation should provide information as to why expectations were not met.
The evaluation required by the Foundation in connection with its grants should be designed, first and foremost, to provide information that is useful to the grantee. The Foundation does not have proscribed criteria or methodology. Each grantee’s evaluation is necessarily unique to its own programs and the evaluation questions it is asking. Our hope is that each grantee will understand the importance and usefulness of evaluation in assessing its effectiveness in achieving its program goals. We expect the evaluation results will be reviewed, discussed and assessed by the staff and board of each grantee. All too often, grantees develop evaluation reports to meet funder requirements and do not use the information in their own decision making. To be most useful, the evaluation process should be integrated into the day-to-day operating procedures of an organization and it must have staff buy-in. Like any good operating procedure, it must be developed with care, include staff input and have sufficient documentation to insure both support and implementation.
Evaluation should uncover problems as well as document successes. If an evaluation demonstrates that a program is not working, that is good information. It should lead to program modifications or elimination. Perhaps the evaluation will demonstrate that a problem has been solved. Then resources can be directed at a new or different problem. It is the Foundation’s policy to encourage honest evaluation. If problems are uncovered in the evaluation process, it will not mean automatic funding termination. We will be open to program modification and new approaches that may better solve the problem.
We encourage the sharing of evaluation results beyond the organization itself. Grantees in similar fields can benefit by sharing their expectations and evaluation findings. Foundation experience indicates that group discussions of common evaluation issues are very helpful.
Evaluation of programs by grantees is expected by an increasing number of funders. Some have more specific requirements than the Foundation. It is clear that good evaluations lead to increased success in obtaining support from funders and from the community. Being able to provide evidence about grantee programs is a definite asset in both fund raising and public relations.
The Kronkosky Charitable Foundation requires each grant applicant to describe its planned evaluation processes in its original letter of inquiry, the first step in applying for a grant. Our purpose in asking for an evaluation plan in the Letter of Inquiry is to encourage each potential grantee to incorporate evaluation into its program plans as early as possible. By defining the evaluation plan early, a potential grantee will be able to identify additional support needed. Not every leader of an organization has had experience in evaluation; and, for this reason, no one will be denied funding due to a lack of such expertise. However, we will expect organizations to identify their needs for financial support of evaluation efforts and include such needs in their grant proposal budgets for program planning. The Foundation will support the costs of equipment and software and training courses that help organizations evaluate programs and develop skills in database management and reporting. One of our goals is to help create information systems that enhance planning and decision-making at the program level.
When an applicant’s Letter of Inquiry leads to the Foundation’s request for a full proposal, a general outline and two standard forms are provided in the Foundation’s proposal packets to help lead an applicant through the preparation of an Evaluation Plan. The Foundation’s grant managers are available to provide guidance and answer questions about evaluation plans and may direct applicants to other available resources for more complicated evaluations. The evaluations required by the Foundation relate to programs only. For example, for facilities grants, we require evaluation plans for the programs to be carried out in the facilities for which funding is being requested, not an evaluation plan covering the construction process.