Strategy and Evaluation: The Twin Engines of Effective Philanthropy

This essay provides a fast-paced tour of grantmaker approaches, launching with the advent of long-range planning in the 1980s and visiting scenario planning, social return on investment, human-centered design, big data, and other developments that have influenced practice. The author lands on strategy and evaluation as the anchor approaches that will fuel greater philanthropic impact in the new decade.

This writing draws on content the author originally published in the Stanford Social Innovation Review blog in March 2014. It makes the case that philanthropy needs to reclaim the meaning of strategy and conveys insights via “five things strategy isn’t” — e.g., strategy cannot be inflexible, insulated, or disconnected from those responsible for implementation. The author concludes with a refreshed set of predictions for the next chapter in the unfolding story of strategy and evaluation.