So What?

How to Turn Data into Dollars

May 12, 2017  • Aspen Planning and Evaluation Program

The biweekly “So What?” guide highlights advice, events, and tipsmostly from the advocacy and evaluation worlds, selected by the Aspen Planning and Evaluation Program. We’re a consulting practice at the Aspen Institute that partners with foundations, nonprofit organizations, and individual funders to help them strengthen their efforts to bring about positive change in society.

Data-driven dollars?

Demonstrating impact to donors: for many, it’s the holy grail. But does a pile of data equal impact? Depends. The Chronicle of Philanthropy offered a webinar this week featuring Andy Kaplan from, whose focus on transparency about their finance and project impact is refreshing.  Okay – maybe it’s pretty straightforward to track impact when the projects funded include buying LEGO Robotic Kits for a fifth-grade classroom, or headphones for a class of severely autistic kids. But credit DonorsChoose for the attractive way they aggregate a very big pile of data to provide compelling results to donors and potential donors.

A listserv that’s worth the extra email

We have cited the Pelican listserv many times in “So What?” over the years: The Platform for Evidence-Based Learning and Communication for Social Change, to call it by its full name, is the simplest of listservs. No frills. Minimal moderation. What makes it extraordinary, at least to this veteran of failed “communities of practice:” participants at every level of evaluation experience from around the world genuinely help one another solve practical problems, across geographical and disciplinary boundaries. It just works. Pelicans: I salute you. To the unfledged: Join up and check it out.

Come to an APEP book talk!

APEP is pleased to co-host a truly special event: wine, beer, and hors d’oeuvres to honor the DC launch of Annette Gardner and Claire Brindis’s book Advocacy and Policy Change Evaluation: Theory and Practice. Save Wednesday June 14 from 5:30 to 7:30 – or better yet, learn more and RSVP! We’ll feature author remarks and a panel discussion to include comments from Julia Coffman, our co-host and the practically legendary founder of the Center for Innovation EvaluationReserve your spot or face years of crushing despair.

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