Leadership, Philanthropy

Evaluating Outcomes

One of the challenges for our work is trying to figure out how to evaluate not only the proposals and opportunities we come across, but(even more difficult) evaluating organizations and projects that we are supporting. This is an ongoing challenge in this field, as I’ve commented on before. In a couple weeks I’ll be attending a conference for grant-making professionals that concludes with an afternoon discussion about “outcome based evaluation” and efforts to develop more consistent and reliable ways to determine value and success in fields that don’t lend themselves easily to numeric criteria. I’m very interested to learn how others are working with this. Last night I had an excellent reminder of this in my own life. Two years ago I left a job as a youth pastor where I’d been for six years. It was a job I loved, although it was demanding. I made my best efforts to help teenagers discover the truth and grace of Jesus and understand how to live out their identities as authentic followers of Jesus, not just good church people. Last night I got together with one of the guys who had been in that group and is now at university. Over the course of an excellent conversation (and some very good chicken wings) we caught up on our lives and I saw clearly in him some of the perspectives and character qualities I’d been trying to pass on for six years. It was extremely gratifying to recognise that in him. When he graduated a lot of that stuff wasn’t very apparent. It seems to me that when working with people the most meaningful changes often take a lot of time. Projects can be evaluated based on specific time bound criteria; but lives changed according to an imposed timeline. Leaders need to develop a long term mentality and understand that results may not be apparent until long after the opportunity for recognition has passed.