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Global Interdependence Initiative
CONTINUOUS PROGRESS Better Advocacy Through Evaluation
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“Some foundations are increasingly interested in investing in evaluation. Funders either have a lax attitude without any expectations of what should be measured or they go too far on the other side and ask for more than normal.”
— Julia Coffman,
Harvard Family Research Project

Evaluation Guidelines for Grantees

Before drafting an advocacy grant, be clear with the grantee about your evaluation expectations throughout the process. Many grantees are unclear about what is expected in the evaluation process. They often edit findings and only share “good results” with grantmakers. Sharing only successes with a grantmaker for the sake of making a good impression will not improve the grantee's ability to advocate nor will it help you understand what works and what doesn't in policy advocacy.

Below are eight important evaluation guidelines to consider when making an advocacy grant:

  1. Type of evaluation: Discuss with your grantee whether you are interested in formative evaluation and/or in summative evaluation. Also, share your interest in both advocacy progress and capacity building. Let the grantee know that while you might be focused on policy outcomes, learning about how grantees and grantmakers alike can improve advocacy effectiveness is a key purpose of this evaluation. Continuous progress will depend on it!
  2. Timing: Determine how frequently you would like to be updated on the evaluation findings and through what channels. Let the grantee know if formal reports are required and how they are to be completed. Do not ask for a report that no one will read—this will save a lot of time and hassle.
  3. What to evaluate: Discuss with the grantee what should be evaluated. While the eyes of both the grantee and grantmaker should be on the prize—long-term policy change— short-term incremental progress will be more visible and easier to track. Be clear about what you expect to be evaluated. Be clear as well about what will not be useful from your vantage point.
  4. Understanding of policy environment: Establish an understanding with the grantee that while good planning and solid execution are necessary, they do not guarantee successful advocacy. Several variables such as other actors, unforeseen changes beyond the grantee's control and sheer luck mayt also have a large influence on the outcomes of the advocacy efforts. Let the grantee know that you understand this reality.
  5. Attribution: Grantees and grantseekers may be inclined to take all of the credit for any desired changes in their issue area. Let the grantee know that you understand that this is often not plausible, especially when several groups are working for the same policy goal, or when the grant has a short timeframe. Be frankly but respectfully skeptical about claims that you believe are simplistic or overly optimistic. Encourage and praise reports that are candid, and therefore, more useful to both parties. This will ensure actual learning and manage expectations on both ends.
  6. Role of grantmaker: Let the grantee know what you will be able to provide beyond funding: technical support, useful introductions, communications expertise, etc. Acknowledging up front your desired and possible level of engagement in the grantee's efforts will make them feel more comfortable for the duration of the advocacy grant.
  7. Flexibility: Determine your level of flexibility with the advocacy grant activities and discuss this with your grantee. Acknowledging that things may change as a result of the formative evaluation process will allow the grantee to think creatively when obstacles arise.
  8. Dialogue and relationship evaluation: Let the grantee know how to contact you during the advocacy grant so that the communication lines are open. For example, will there be scheduled or ad hoc sessions? It is also important to determine how the grantmaker/grantee relationship will be evaluated once the advocacy activities are in progress and once the grant is completed.

TIPS

  • While it seems simple, a main reason for poor evaluation is unclear or misunderstood expectations. Making the grantee aware of your expectations at the start will increase the effectiveness of evaluation and improve the grantee-grantmaker relationship.
  • Acknowledge that you don not expect things to be perfect and that it is nearly impossible to track complete causation. By letting a grantee know that you are healthily skeptical, you will probably receive more thorough and useful evaluations.
  • Ask other funders about their evaluation procedures. They might be willing to share them with you. For instance, Grantcraft is a resource made available by the Ford Foundation that offers interesting insights into evaluating advocacy.