Are foundations assessing their impact? Concepts, methods and barriers to social impact assessment in Italian foundations

Elisa Ricciuti*, Francesca Calo

*Corresponding author for this work

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Abstract

Social Impact Assessment (SIA) is a mantra for nonprofit studies in recent years and for foundations in particular which are considered to be well-positioned to measure the impact of their grants. This paper aims to explore what foundations mean with impact, the ways they measure it and the barriers in performing evaluations. Its mixed method approach includes an extensive documentary analysis of 196 foundations, complemented by 10 in-depth interviews with informants of 13 foundations which use different methods of evaluation. From our analysis, the degree of foundations’ disclosure on SIA is low, and no common meaning of social impact exists. Foundations prefer qualitative methods for data collection rather than quantitative ones. The reasons behind SIA are primarily based on internal considerations concerning foundations’ legitimacy, and the lack of professional staff is a major barrier. The findings challenge foundations’ accountability and knowledge sharing, fundamental to fostering peer dialogue and increasing participatory evaluations.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)553-574
Number of pages22
JournalInternational Review on Public and Nonprofit Marketing
Volume15
Issue number4
Early online date29 Oct 2018
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2018

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Keywords

  • social impact
  • assessment
  • evaluation
  • foundations
  • philanthropy

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