Why Evaluate an Advocacy Effort?

Despite the difficulties of measuring the effectiveness of an advocacy effort or pointing to the difference made by a particular activity or grant, one experienced advocacy grantmaker argued that there are other rationales for supporting an evaluation:

  • To encourage grantees to think more broadly. “For a lot of advocacy groups, evaluation means, ‘Did we win or didn’t we win in a particular policy context?’ We’d talk about evaluation, and they would send us a ream of press clips: ‘You see, we really did it.’ But they weren’t as analytical in understanding what it takes to win. I think that’s probably the biggest contribution the evaluators made. [Our grantees] have become more sophisticated in their understanding of the ingredients of success.”
  • To sharpen the focus on measurable change. “We knew how much money we had, we knew how much time we had, and we knew that we wanted to make a difference. We knew that we wanted to be able to say that things were somehow different because we were there than they would have been if we hadn’t been there with this strategy.”
  • To engage your board in overall strategy. “Ours is a risky strategy, and sometimes the board gets antsy. But the evaluation, because it’s a regular part of what we do, elevates the level of the conversation. So it’s not an antsy-ness about this grant or that grant—it’s about the strategy, which is more helpful because they are very smart and engaged people.
  • To hold yourself accountable and enhance your own work. “We’re making sizable investments, and it’s [our founder’s] money. I think he wanted to have a better sense of how are we doing, really. When the evaluation started, I think the staff – well, we were very nervous about this. Because the evaluation is probably as much about the strategy as it is about the performance of the grantees. But we began to see how the evaluation could help us in our work and that the evaluators were more our partners than our assessors.”

Takeaways are critical, bite-sized resources either excerpted from our guides or written by Candid Learning for Funders using the guide's research data or themes post-publication. Attribution is given if the takeaway is a quotation.

This takeaway was derived from Advocacy Funding.