At the Walton Family Foundation, all grant making is considered an investment for the achievement of a desired goal. Whether it is increasing the number of school choices available to families in an urban school district or increasing water flow in a tributary of the Colorado River, every dollar invested in projects and organizations has the intent of achieving results.
Given our entrepreneurial mindset, we seek to work with organizations that:
- Have strategies based on sound theories of action;
- Set clear goals; and
- Include measurable benchmarks to assess performance.
Our Evaluation Unit staff conducts research and participates in the discussion about best practices in philanthropic evaluation.
Here are a few links to recent articles that have appeared in national media.
Guides to Creating Performance Measures
This video shows Walton Family Foundation grant applicants how to create the rigorous performance measures that they will need to complete their application.
All invited grant applicants should also review the following guides in order to compose complete and useful performance measures.
- How To Construct Performance Measures - Education Reform
- How To Construct Performance Measures - Environment Focus Area
Our Approach To Evaluation
To measure progress toward our goals, we have established an evaluation process that provides useful information to our staff and board members about which organizations are effective, what strategies are working, and whether our overall mission is being achieved.
Our evaluation efforts include monitoring and assessing the efforts of individual grantees as well as investigating progress toward broader strategic goals – and doing so in a rigorous, systematic and timely manner.
Evaluation can tell us whether programs are working. It can also provide insight to staff and grantees about how to adjust and improve their efforts. We believe that both types of assessment are valuable to our work and essential to helping us achieve our goals.
We know that external factors affect grantee performance and the impact of our strategies and that the systems in which we work are complex and influenced by many factors. We are sensitive to this. Still, we operate under the assumption that it is possible, with some limitations, to understand, know, and objectively measure performance at all levels of our work, from individual grants through our strategies, initiatives, and programs.
Specifically, we believe it is possible, and in fact our responsibility, to base evaluations on rigorous scientific approaches. This is challenging, but necessary to ensure our evaluations are valid, accurate, and as objective as possible, thus providing reliable information for our board, our program staff and our grantees. We are committed to being transparent about measuring results and then using those results to most efficiently and effectively achieve our mission.
In addition to monitoring and evaluating our grantees directly, we also stay current on relevant third-party research. Here is some of what we have been learning:
- This investigation of 43 KIPP schools finds that "the average impact of KIPP on student achievement is positive, statistically significant, and educationally substantial.”
- This national evaluation of Teach For America corps members teaching high school math finds that students assigned to TFA teachers gain an additional 2.6 months of learning more than students of comparison teachers.
- This national study of charter schools conducted by Stanford University (CREDO) found significant positive effects in at least one subject for African-American students, low-income students, English Language Learners, and special needs students.
- This study of a NYC voucher program finds that students who used a voucher were significantly more likely to attend college as a result.