Evidence Informed Grantmaking for Greater Social Impact

Foundations striving to center equity in an era of constant change and uncertainty know that diversity of thought, continuous learning, and knowledge sharing are essential to making informed decisions that guide strategic grantmaking. Foundations need to understand how the work they fund impacts communities and partners, and they need to know what others across the ecosystem are learning to catalyze cross-sector investments and partnerships.

Mathematica is a trusted learning partner that helps foundations embed learning and evaluation into every stage of grantmaking. Together we co-design investment strategies, uncover evidence to shape portfolios, and create a runway for continuous learning and improvement with grantees and partners. We partner with foundations like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Walton Family Foundation, and the W. K. Kellogg Foundation to make progress that drives greater social impact with evidence-informed grantmaking.

How We Can Help

Mathematica helps foundations develop the processes, documents, and tools necessary to seamlessly implement an evidence-informed grantmaking strategy. We are authentic learning partners that will challenge assumptions based on evidence, synthesize information from diverse perspectives, and work alongside foundations and grantees at every step of the learning journey. We partner with foundations to answer the following questions:

  • What is the best way to set up the learning function in your organization?
  • How can your foundation get the staff and board engaged in and excited about learning and utilizing evidence?
  • How can you learn with communities, nonprofits, and grantees?
  • How can your foundation better connect or link learning and evaluation to strategy?
  • What are the best ways to share learning with others to build awareness and drive transformational change and action?
5 pre-school to kindergarten aged children raising their hands in the air.

Featured Project: Addressing Disparities in Education

Mathematica partnered with the Mirror Group and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to develop an Education-to-Workforce Indicator framework that establishes a common set of metrics and data equity principles for assessing and addressing disparities along the education-to-workforce continuum.

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Our Framework, Your Learning Journey

Evidence-informed grantmaking is our equity-centered, strategic framework that leverages data and partnership to deeply understand community context and complexities to guide grantmaking strategies. Our framework facilitates a process of learning at every stage of a foundation’s grantmaking cycle, both pre- and post-investment.

Evidence-informed grantmaking embeds evaluation into foundations’ strategy development and implementation, ensuring that research and data influence the process. This approach offers a platform for foundations to define a set of learning activities internally and externally in collaboration with partners such as grantees, regional and national funders, intermediaries, community members, businesses, and government agencies.

We understand that foundations are all at different stages in their learning journeys. That’s why we begin with an assessment to understand a foundation’s current culture, governance, processes, agility, and readiness to pursue an evidence-informed strategy and practice before recommending supports and co-designing solutions.

The Evidence-Informed Grantmaking Framework

To ensure that foundations successfully move through a learning journey, Mathematica will meet foundations where they are to co-create an evidence-informed grantmaking learning plan to deepen their impact. We will use the insights generated in conversation with foundations to craft their learning journey and desired impact story.

Assess readiness for evidence-informed strategy and practice.

  • Dynamics and readiness
  • Planning and focus
  • Capacity and implementation
  • Context and collaboration
  • Learning and adaptation

Choose supports based on assessment and organizational goals.

  • Measurement, Learning, and Evaluation (MLE)
  • Strategy Development
  • Grantee Capacity Building

Outputs: Develop documents, processes, tools, and skillsets for continuous learning.

  • Tracking process
  • Managing grant initiatives
  • Performance measurement dashboards
  • Convening grantees to facilitate learning
  • Strategy (portfolio level) evaluation
  • Case studies

The Results: Continuous Learning and Adaptation

By following our evidence-informed grantmaking framework, foundations can:

  1. Make sense of evidence: Leverage expertise in accessing, synthesizing, and analyzing high quality research to provide insights into what the evidence says is effective to inform your foundation’s grantmaking and strategy.
  2. Effectively implement evidence in practice: Leverage our expertise in implementation science to identify ways to increase the use of research findings to improve your philanthropic practice.
  3. Learn and adapt: Use research methods, tools, and convenings to test and evaluate policies, practice, and programs to ensure that your foundation is delivering the best possible outcomes for the grantees and communities they serve.

An Interactive Tool to Explore Adult Learning Initiatives and Outcomes

As an evaluation partner to Lumina Foundation, Mathematica developed an interactive webpage for exploring Adult Promise initiatives and insights for funding, designing, implementing initiatives that support adult learners as they re-enroll in college and complete credentials.

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Let's Get Started

Is your foundation ready to find a learning partner that can deepen your impact? Let’s discuss your readiness for using evidence to inform grantmaking and strategy.

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Meet Your Partners in Progress

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Shazia Miller

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Kristin Hallgren

Kristin Hallgren

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Julie Bruch

Principal Researcher

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