A Grantmaker’s Impact Assessment: Yes, and…


The directors of the Urban Action Fund (UAF) were proud to be completing their first decade of grantmaking for social science research. As they reached this milestone, they were eager to conduct an impact assessment—to know the degree to which the fund was fulfilling its mission, and what adjustments they might make in their future decision making.

Impact Assessment Looks Back for Future Grants

The social-impact grantmaker had evidence that their grants had led to major policy changes and benefits for communities, but they wanted to know more about what had led to successful outcomes and where organizations faced challenges.

UAF asked their philanthropic advisor at GMA Foundations to lead them in reflecting, learning, and making adjustments. The process started with an impact assessment, based on a review of the fund’s grant portfolio. The review would examine the circumstances around both impact and shortfalls. GMA supervised a graduate student to collect and analyze data, interview grantees, and prepare a formal assessment of the funding program.

The directors were pleased with the results. GMA’s report confirmed the impact of their grantmaking and also identified key characteristics that led to the success or failure of the funded projects. The report concluded with reflective questions which, through conversation guided by their philanthropic advisor, helped the directors refine the fund’s review process and communication with applicants. Finally, in another measure of a fruitful project, the insights and lessons-learned from UAF’s assessment have been published in a book of case studies about community-based research.

Contact Prentice Zinn, principal at GMA, at pzinn@gmafoundations.com   to consider how an impact assessment might guide your future grantmaking.

Note: Urban Action Fund (UAF) is an alias used to protect client privacy.