Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Burdens and Benefits of Evaluation

William Schambra, Director of the Bradley Center for Philanthropy and Civic Renewal at the Hudson Institute, makes a fair point in his article, “Measurement is a futile way to approach grant making,” when he laments that “ever more elaborate schemes for ensuring measurable outcomes” have imposed “a substantial and growing burden of measurement for the nonprofit world.”  And he’s right, too, when he observes that “even when measurements have been duly gathered, research shows that they have little impact on actual grant making, not affecting the amount of money spent on a program.”  But he overshoots the mark when he acknowledges, with refreshing candor, that “I happen to believe that measurement is finally a futile way to approach grant making.”  Useful evaluations of nonprofit performance are not a one-size-fits-all proposition, and the costs and value of assessing effectiveness can and should be calibrated as befits the purpose of evaluation:  to get more funding with less effort to more effective organizations.