If you worked for the federal, state, or local government, or if you worked for a foundation, or if you were a private donor… Would you rather fund a program that:

  • Had zero prior evaluation data vs. had prior evaluation data that showed little or no positive results?
  • Would use some of the money to hire internal evaluators vs. would spend all the money on directly costs (like staff salaries, or materials, or gift cards for the program participants)?
  • Had a huge commitment to track data internally but was found to have negative evaluation results vs. had not committed any data internally (so the program may be doing well or may be doing poorly, but nobody knows for sure)?
  • Had been evaluated more rigorously but had little or no positive effect on participants vs. a program that had been evaluated less rigorously that was shown to have a positive effect on participants?
  • Would use the money to hire an external evalautor vs. would use the money to hire an internal evaluator?
  • Wanted to collect information for internal uses (like helping program staff collect baseline academic data that helped them place students into tutoring groups based on their academic level) vs. fund an evaluation for external audiences (like making sure that the program you’re funding was accountable to the standards you set forth)?

I understand that past evalaution results are just one of many factors in the decision to fund a program, but I wonder… How do you think that donors in the government or in foundations would answer these questions?