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Evaluation: Putting On Our Big Boy Glasses

big boy glassesGreetings from the Global Philanthropy Forum Conference, “The Future We Make.” We’ve been here learning and representing Markets for Good among “established and emerging philanthropists and investors who seek to advance individual opportunity and to improve the quality of life through strategic giving and investing.”

Could “strategic giving” be achieved were it not for evaluation of the causes in which we invest?

We’ll try to answer that and other questions surrounding our next theme at Markets for Good, which is Evaluation- Using data to evaluate nonprofit performance: leading examples, different approaches, what’s required to make it easier at scale. But first,let’s recap our previous theme.


In March and April, Markets for Good examined what we need to build a better information infrastructure, from the technologists’ and intermediaries’ points of view. We opened the conversation with the launch of The MFG Challenge : Increasing The Interoperability of Data for Social Good, featuring $100K grants to each winner. (You can still apply easily and online by May 7.

While the content, of course, covered myriad ways technology is being used to improve organizational capacity and results for people, the shared narrative turned out to be the technologists’ concern for developing the human skills for data literacy and discernment. Here are a few highlights: From former White House CTO Beth Novek‘s Gov3.0 graduate class at NYU, Nicolas Galarza presented a case study on Open Data and technology to show how we can improve access for the poor to tech innovations. Nikon Rasumov, co-founder and CEO of Pullapproach offered a route to Speeding The Convergence of Impact and Profit. We also heard from the long-standing TechSoup community in the voices of Daniel Ben Horin, Founder (Data Points and Data Agents) and Sheetal Singh, Senior Director of Global Media (Making Data An Afterthought). Now, on to evaluation…


How can we continue to improve this critical component of the sector that allows us to objectively communicate how we carry out our missions and demonstrate impact versus our proposed goals. From the infrastructural point of view, we will take on the collection of measurements (efficiency, effectiveness, impact, sustainability, and others) to compare leading examples at large and small scale. Evaluators, nonprofits, academics and data specialists will bring their informed opinions to the topic.

Essentially, we are looking to surface the intersection of accountability (through evaluation) and the data infrastructure required to support it. Are there data strategies nonprofits can use to facilitate the evaluation process? How can we use the evaluation itself to discover larger opportunities to improve our information infrastructure? Are there data standards and protocols that we don’t yet have that would allow for better comparison of evaluations to gain a wider view of impact in the sector? These are just a few of the angles you can help us explore.

Brenna Marea Powell, Associate Director of the Stanford Center on International Conflict and Negotiation, has opened the theme with her comment on the framework to approach evaluation. Anne Hand, Executive Director of the rating agency Filantrofilia will speak on using data to evaluate nonprofit performance – from an international perspective. Yumi Sera, Operations Director, Disability Rights Fund will contribute a jointly authored post with evaluator Universalia, regarding comparing data across several developing countries and hundreds of diverse organizations. We will also have perspectives on the topic from David Henderson, founder of Idealistics, and Daniel Stid, Partner, Bridgespan Group. Please comment on their posts to share your own thoughts and reactions.

Join the Conversation

Is there a frequently occurring issue you’d like to talk about, whether you are a nonprofit, evaluator, or funder? Let us know what’s new and what you’re working on. And let’s talk about it here on the Markets for Good blog. You can also email us: info [at]