In Effective Philanthropy: Make a Difference we made the point that different programs focus their action differently. Some want to create change at the individual level. Others want to create change at the system level, others at the community level, and others at the organizational level. And in Making a Difference: Evidence of Success we say it makes sense to hope that success should be found at those same four different levels. If you’re trying to create change at the individual level, look for evidence of change there.
In this post we make the point that the most meaningful evidence of success should be found near the program’s action is. If evidence is anywhere, it must be there. If you look too far down the road, the impact of your gift is mixed in with many other influences. And if you wait too long to look, your impact could well have dissipated, or morphed into something unrecognizable or unrelated. If you want to find evidence of success, look early and closely, adjusting your view as necessary.
Where to look? The proposal that prompted your gift probably made clear what at what level change should happen, and where to look for meaningful evidence of success.
Giving money to the neighborhood emergency food shelf should yield evidence right there on the premises, whether in food distributed, people served, or hunger sated by a nutritious meal or two or three.
Giving money to my local youth farm and market project should yield evidence right there on the farm and market, whether in kids learning skills, food made more plentiful nearby, or community partners meaningfully engaged.
Giving money to support changes to the good food distribution system should yield evidence right there at the beginnings of the next opportune change to the good food distribution system.
Giving money to strengthen the management of all three of the above organizations should yield evidence to anyone witnessing any of their staff meetings.
Steven E. Mayer / Effective Communities Project / November 11, 2020