Photo by Xanxhor
At this year’s MESI, Ricardo Millett was one of the keynote speakers. Millett gave an intriguing and thought-provoking talk about foundations and their role in evaluation. I will be posting a few posts with some great points he made in his talk.
- Many foundations are still stuck in the mindset that evaluation is too costly – and/or should be used to judge return on investment for their grantmaking. Their understanding is limited to the “gold standard.”
For those that are not familiar with the “gold standard,” it is a term used in evaluation to describe randomized control trials (RCTs). Millett pointed out that while RCTs are an ideal methodology, the reality is that the vast majority of nonprofit programs are not suitable for RCTs. Many programs are short-lived and experimental, with foundations providing a few years funding and then moving on to something else. Using RCTs with these types of programs to attempt to measure cause and effect would be extremely difficult and expensive. Many nonprofits don’t even conduct “real” evaluations – much less have the capability to conduct RCTs. Evaluation methods used, should be designed to enhance learning to improve results and the program as a whole.