September 4, 2007

Abstract: The Annie E. Casey Foundation

How can a foundation better evaluate the difference it's making in the world, when its grantee portfolio is diverse—and it's the grantees who actually deliver?

It’s one thing to be able to say, “Our foundation funds programs that do great work.” It is a very different thing to be able to say, “Our money is having the impact we want it to have.” How can a foundation explicitly and confidently measure its performance against its mission, when it’s the grantees who deliver?

In 2000, the Annie E. Casey Foundation's measurement activities were focused mainly on tracking process results. These data provided a big-picture look at the scope of the foundation’s grantmaking, and a catalog of general outputs (the number of people served by a given grantee, for example). But importantly, they did not establish a clear link between outputs and outcomes. The organization tackled that question when they set out to create a foundation-wide, results-based measurement system. Their experience—and in particular, the work of Casey’s Education Program—illustrates the scope and depth of effort needed to create such a system, and suggests guidelines for other foundations seeking to understand their impact.


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