Evaluation: Make It Meaningful and Useful

Michael Quinn Patton

Michael Quinn Patton

Don’t miss MCF’s spring issue of Giving Forum, online and in your mailbox now, for “Making Evaluation Meaningful and Useful” by Michael Quinn Patton.

He says, “High-performing organizations make evaluative thinking a way of doing business.”

He distills 40 years of experience conducting evaluation, training evaluators and writing about evaluation into three important lessons. Here’s a taste. There’s much more in the complete Commentary.

  1. Embedded Evaluative Thinking Creates Lasting Impact: Patton stresses that the first step is distinguishing evaluative thinking from doing an evaluation and says, “Evaluation is an activity that produces reports; evaluative thinking produces effective organizations.”
  2. Evaluation is a Leadership Responsibility and Function: Evaluation must not be seen as a technical or administrative function. Instead it is an ongoing inquiry into what works — for whom, in what ways and under what conditions– that must become a strategic priority.
  3. Evaluating Your Organization’s Evaluation Culture Deepens It: This step involves asking tough questions of your staff: How is evaluation viewed here? How are failures handled? What would you tell a new co-worker about how to approach evaluation?

He also shares a bit about his work over the last year with the Otto Bremer Foundation, an MCF member, as it works to embed evaluative thinking into its culture.

He mentions a set of 25 Evaluation Flash Cards that the foundation put together to summarize key evaluation concepts and their implications for grantmaking. The flash cards will soon be available on the Otto Bremer Foundation website as a resource for the philanthropic and nonprofit community. We’re anxious to see them too, so we’ll let you know when we hear that they’ve been posted.

The spring issue of Giving Forum is all evaluation, measurement and results, so don’t miss it!

- Susan Stehling, MCF communications associate

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