The Center for Effective Philanthropy’s (CEP’s) recent report Room for Improvement: Foundation Support for Nonprofit Performance Assessment reverses the usual dynamic of grantmakers evaluating nonprofit effectiveness to focus on how well grantmakers support their nonprofit partners in assessment. The title of the report conveys the authors’ assessment of the current situation: grantmakers have room for improvement in this area. Key findings:
- Nonprofits care about performance measurement, but don’t necessarily have the organizational capacity to spend much of their time dedicated to it. Many want more help from grantmakers in assessing their progress than they’re currently receiving.
- Most nonprofits don’t receive any financial or non-monetary support for assessment from funders. Moreover, there is little discussion about assessment happening between nonprofits and funders.
- Nonprofits perceive that foundations prioritize gathering performance assessment information for their own needs over helping their grantees gather this type of information for their benefit. Relatedly, funders have the opportunity to be more consistent in the types of information they seek from their grantees.
The report notes, “Our research — this report and our earlier work on foundation performance assessment — highlights a disturbing disconnect between the perceptions of funders and grantees when it comes to nonprofit performance assessment. Foundation leaders say that nonprofits need to be doing more and better work to assess their performance, but nonprofit leaders report high levels of effort and care being devoted to performance assessment at their organizations.” To bridge the gap between nonprofit and grantmaker perceptions about performance assessment, grantmakers can:
- Provide support — financial and non-monetary — for assessment activities. Spend time discussing assessment with grantees.
- Focus on working with nonprofits to identify the measures that will help them most effectively assess their own performance.
Join the conversation: Grantmakers, how do you support nonprofit assessment at your grantees? Nonprofits, what is your experience with performance assessment?
- Anne Bauers, MCF research manager
(Editor’s note: this is Anne’s last day at MCF, as she departs to become a full-time graduate student. Best wishes, Anne!)