Phase 4.2 – Article – Measuring What Matters

Five grant performance measurement traps and how to avoid them.

These days, foundations, evaluators, and consultants are spending a lot of time advocating new ways to measure progress and deal with “emergence ( webinar-questions-answered) ” when working on complex, systems-change initiatives. At the same time, sitting underneath any systems change effort is the day-to-day craft of grantmaking. The very real need to determine how best to allocate foundations’ limited resources requires generating robust performance measures that drive accountability, learning, and impact—for each and every grant.

Performance measures ( —statements of output or outcome indicators established contractually between funder and nonprofit grantees—should reflect a shared understanding between the grantee, the funder, and the evaluator of what will constitute success. They set everyone up for objective assessment of progress and lessons learned, both along the way and at the end. But it’s important to be aware of and manage the perverse incentives a rigorous performance measurement system can create. Building on the observations of Daniel Stid of the Hewlett Foundation ( , we have found that when program staff and grantees fall into the five performance measurement traps we’ve identified below, it can compromise the learning process.

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