mOp-Ed: Should Foundations Measure ROI on Philanthropic Investment?

ROI” by GotCredit licensed under CC BY 2.0

By Mark Oppenheim

m/Oppenheim has managed a vast array of executive searches for foundations and other organizations where assessment, evaluation and ROI metrics have been key. So is measurement and evaluation good or bad?

The answer depends on the situation. Measurement is good because it tells you what is effective, and bad because it absorbs resources that could be used to deliver programs.

The real question is not whether investment in measurement is good or bad. The real question is: will measurement give you actionable data at low cost so that you can deliver better outcomes that justify the investment in measurement.

If you are debating whether to measure, or whether to require a grantee to provide data on effectiveness, you might want to consider three questions:

  • What will you do differently based on availability of new measurement data? If measurements won’t change your actions, or if changed action would have little impact, then why measure?
  • Do you know what to do or change without investing in data collection and analysis? Or can you reach that decision is a quick, inexpensive way? If so, do that.
  • Do you care enough about the answer to separately fund the measurement effort?

In the end, it’s all about whether measurement is the best use of limited resources to. It’s not about measurement, it’s about what new data might cause you to do.


Mark Oppenheim is an unrepentant nonprofit wonk who runs nonprofit search and media organizations.

mOp-Ed pieces reflect diverse opinions about the nonprofit world and we welcome yours. If you would like to be a guest writer for mOppenheim.Org, please contact us for more information

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