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News & Info

Reflective Grantmaking: Do Less, Learn More—Have Greater Impact!

Federal agencies, foundations, and nonprofit organizations that are funding solutions to long-standing social problems need to continually assess their efforts and use the findings to adapt and improve their funding strategies. This article discusses the value and guiding principles for embedding reflective practice into the grantmaking process. 

Although many funders and social change organizations espouse learning and adaptation as part of their culture, it is our observation that actual efforts to effectively use their experience and the results of evaluation often fall flat, if they happen at all. This can be attributed to a number of organizational factors, but there is also a common misconception that strengthening their funding strategies through more grants leads to a bigger impact. 

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Development of the St. David’s Foundation’s Monitoring, Learning, and Evaluation System Project

The St. David’s Foundation (SDF) is one of the largest grantmaking foundations in Texas. SDF invests proceeds from St. David's HealthCare to more than 60 nonprofit partners that operate healthy community programs in the Central Texas area. SDF has contracted with Community Science to develop a monitoring, learning, and evaluation (MLE) system to assist them to better manage and improve the effectiveness of SDF’s grantmaking. In understanding the importance of working with the organization, the Project Team has been collaborating with SDF staff to build on their existing tools and procedures, refining their content, and developing new procedures to help them determine progress.

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The Step-By-Step Guide to Evaluation: How to Become Savvy Evaluation Consumers

Community Science is proud to present The Step-By-Step Guide to Evaluation: How to Become Savvy Evaluation Consumers, which we developed for the W.K. Kellogg Foundation (download here). This new guide is designed for people with little or no experience with formal evaluation to help them become more familiar with evaluation concepts and practices, partner better with independent evaluators, and use evaluation more effectively to continually learn from and improve their work. It draws from Community Science’s knowledge of evaluation, existing publications about evaluation, as well as our staff’s extensive experiences with building the evaluation capacity of nonprofit organizations. This guide includes tips and tools for practical and important matters such as stakeholder engagement, simple quantitative and qualitative data analysis, and communication and use of evaluation findings. We hope that it will help demystify evaluation and encourage people to use data to inform their strategies to effect social change and promote equity and justice.

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Staff Profile: Oscar Espinosa

Oscar Espinosa, M.A., Senior Associate, is an experienced Project Director with over 20 years of project management experience. His primary area of expertise is program evaluation, and has applied his knowledge of outcome/impact evaluation to design custom grant monitoring and management systems for federal and foundation clients. He has designed systems for the St. David’s Foundation, Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health, Corporation for National and Community Service, and Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. For these multi-year projects Mr. Espinosa facilitated needs assessments with staff and conducted document reviews and extensive literature reviews and environmental scans to identify metrics which appropriately gauge the funding agencies’ performance relative to their mission and strategic plan. The objective of building these systems is to help staff determine the extent to which their organization’s funding strategy is having the outcomes and impacts they were intended to achieve, and to learn what mid-course corrections need to be made to achieve their strategic goals. 

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Recent Publications:

Emerging Action Principles for Designing and Planning Community Change (March 2015)

Community Matters! Decades of scientific research have shown that being part of a supportive, inclusive and capable community promotes mental, physical, and social well-being more than any other factors known to the social and medical sciences. Our publication series, Community Matters: Action Principles, Frameworks, and Strategies, shares what science and practice have taught us about building and strengthening community. The first publication in this series, “Emerging Principles for Designing and Implementing Community Change,” has just been released.


Local Voices: On-the-Ground Perspectives on Driving Community Change in the Making Connections Sites (July 2014)

This report describes, from the perspective of local stakeholders, the experience of several sites involved in Making Connections — the Foundation’s signature community change initiative of the 2000s — in developing and enhancing the core capacities essential for articulating and pursuing a local community change agenda. The report describes the conditions in the communities when Making Connections began; the core capacities built during the decade-long initiative; the factors that contributed to capacity building; the evidence of improved outcomes for children, families and neighborhoods resulting from the enhanced change capacities; the continuing challenges of sustaining those capacities; and key takeaways from the experience.  


Addressing Health Disparities Through Organizational Change-Evaluation Report (April 2012)

In 2006, The Colorado Trust funded 14 organizations to improve their cultural competency in order to strengthen their capacity to reduce health disparities.  Community Science was engaged to evaluate the initiative, specifically assessing: 1) changes in cultural competency among grantees, 2) the influence of cultural competency changes on grantee interventions and short -term outcomes, 3) factors and conditions needed to bring about positive changes in organizational cultural competency, and 4) grantee progress and accomplishments over time.  


The Importance of Culture in Evaluation

The Importance of Culture in Evaluation, a publication funded by The Colorado Trust, provides insights to help guide the complex dynamics between evaluators, funders and stakeholders of different cultures. The report provides examples of where cross-cultural competency is critical in evaluation and recommends questions and strategies that an evaluator should consider when practicing this form of cultural competency.