Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy
Dr. David Hartmann
Each year, U.S. community foundations are responsible for billions of dollars in philanthropy, yet the outcomes associated with these efforts often remain unknown. Previous research supports the importance of evaluating philanthropic activities and shows that community foundations express a strong interest in evaluation; however, the limited available evidence suggests that evaluation practice is still not widespread.
This study reports the findings from a national survey of community foundations on evaluation practice. The findings indicate that a substantial share of community foundations do not formally evaluate the outcomes of their philanthropic work. Additionally, although previous research has suggested that community foundation evaluation practice is constrained by limited organizational resources, an analysis of asset and community size found that these traits are not associated with most measures of evaluation practice. Although community foundations with larger endowments do show a somewhat greater tendency to make funding decisions based on evaluations and to invest in evaluation-related training for staff, they did not show a consistently higher tendency to actually practice evaluation. Overall, the analysis suggests that barriers to evaluation related to organizational size or assets may have been overstated in the past.
Finally, this study also looks at alternate reasons why community foundations may or may not choose to practice evaluation. Research conducted with a subset of community foundations offers additional support for the notion that factors besides assets or size play a role in the adoption of evaluation practices. Among community foundations that are active evaluators, internal characteristics including staff leadership and board influence were cited as deciding factors for overcoming barriers to evaluation.
Watts, Brad R., "The Role of Evaluations in Community Foundations" (2011). Dissertations. 478.