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An Analysis of Evaluation Policy in the Philanthropic Sector


Foundations annually distribute over $60 billion to nonprofit organizations. They rely on evaluation to learn about the impact of their investment and make decisions about future investments. To govern evaluation practice, foundations are beginning to draft evaluation policies. To date, there is some research on the evaluation policies being written by international aid organizations and governments around the world. However, there is little research on the evaluation policies begin written in the philanthropic sector. It is unclear why these policies are being developed and what impact, if any, they have on evaluation practice. Furthermore, it is uncertain if the content of these policies is informed by the information and knowledge imbedded in evaluation theories. The present dissertation begins with an exploration of foundation spending on evaluation and tracks the prevalence of published evaluation policies among leading foundations. Next, extant evaluation policies are analyzed utilizing two proposed taxonomies that identify dimensions of evaluation practice that could be specified in an evaluation policy. Suggested modifications to the taxonomies are discussed and a modified taxonomy is presented. The third, and final, paper documents the intent and influence of evaluation policies in the philanthropic sector, according to evaluation directors. Then, how evaluation theory informs these policies is discussed. The dissertation concludes with suggestions for future research and implications for practice.

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