Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Education


Educational Leadership, Research and Technology

First Advisor

Dr. Zoe Barley

Second Advisor

Dr. Raymond Alie

Third Advisor

Dr. Uldis Smidchens


Little is known about the degree that philanthropic foundations use formal evaluation. This study investigated and described how Michigan based foundations of different sizes and types use formal evaluation for decision making regarding the (a) funding of grant proposals and (b) determining the performance of existing projects. Further, the study provides a description of current evaluation practice and capacity in foundations and plans that foundations have for increasing the evaluation capacity for themselves and of nonprofit grantees.

This study was conducted by mail questionnaire, which was developed by the researcher. A total of 134 questionnaires out of 226 mailed were returned (59.2%). The population of interest consisted of four size and three type categories of foundations. Although it was hypothesized that large foundations and community foundations would be different than other sizes and types of foundations on evaluation related issues, few differences were found.

Using the Pearson chi-square distribution to test the proportion of foundations using evaluation for specific purposes such as application evaluation and the one-way analysis of variance (ANOVA) on questionnaire items designed to provide a mean score, only 16 differences out of 77 hypotheses tested (20.7% ) were found. One difference is that community foundations use application evaluation at a higher rate than do other types of foundations. A second difference is that large foundations have more staff than do other sizes of foundations. Findings without regard to size or type serve as a mechanism for describing the level and type of evaluation activity in foundations.

For example, 45.3% of foundations use application evaluation as part of their approach for choosing which proposals to fund. Moreover, foundations found a variety of strategies at least moderately useful regarding the evaluation of existing funded projects. The most useful strategy was information regarding the degree to which a project met the project’s stated objectives. However, foundations have limited resources to conduct evaluation; foundations only average 1.04 staff persons with 36% of these staff having training in evaluation.

Specific recommendations are targeted toward developing a statewide evaluation consortium for foundations and more in-depth research on evaluation prevalence in foundations.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access