Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Educational Studies

First Advisor

Dr. Donald E. Thompson

Second Advisor

Dr. James R. Sanders

Third Advisor

Dr. Lewis Walker


Community foundations are classified as public charities (501(c) 3). They derive their funds from many donors rather than a single donor, and the board is made up of representatives from the community served. They are most often established to serve a specific geographic area. This study investigated and described how three different community foundations approach organizational evaluation— choosing proposals to fund, monitoring programs, improving programs, and assessing program impact.

The three community foundations approach evaluation not as a formal system of grant accountabilities, but as a way of systematically gathering information from various constituents for purposes of guiding important decisions. The three community foundations used multiple evaluation techniques to meet the needs of donors, recipient organizations, and the community, including (a) involvement of key stakeholders, (b) grant review and monitoring processes, (c) special evaluation projects/initiatives, (d) building the evaluation capacity of the nonprofit sector, and (e) evaluation communications serving their multiple constituents.

The community foundations in this research study made commitments to use evaluation, primarily, focused on self-reflection, the initial grant review and monitoring process, and special initiatives. They were increasingly using evaluation in all aspects of the organizations’ development, including the addition of measurable objectives and benchmarks in their strategic plans, modifying the roles of staff and board members, and technical assistance for nonprofit grantees.

This study will be valuable to the 28 regional associations of grantmakers in the United States in their role as technical assistance providers to community foundations, to inform current and potential donors, to nonprofit organizations concerned about their future, and to the field interested in the growth of community foundations. This study will benefit evaluators interested in promulgating effective organizational evaluation strategies in communities and across diverse types of nonprofit organizations.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access