Charitable foundations play a significant role in advancing public health, funding billions of dollars in health grants each year. Evaluation is an important accountability tool for foundations and helps ensure that philanthropic investments contribute to the broader public health evidence base. While commitment to evaluation has increased among foundations over the past few decades, effective use of evaluation findings remains challenging. To facilitate use of evaluation findings among philanthropic organizations, evaluators can incorporate the foundation's theory of change—an illustration of the presumed causal pathways between a program's activities and its intended outcomes—into user-friendly products that summarize evaluation findings and recommendations. Using examples from the evaluation of the Kansas Health Foundation's Healthy Living Focus Area, we present a mapping technique that can be applied to assess and graphically depict alignment between program theory and program reality, refine the theory of change, and inform grantmaking.
Public Health Research Division, RTI International (Drs Glasgow, Schmitt, and Rogers and Mss Adams, Joshi, and Curry); and Kansas Health Foundation (Dr Willett and Ms Van Hersh).
Correspondence: LaShawn Glasgow, DrPH, Public Health Research Division, DrPH, RTI International, 2951 Flowers Rd S, Ste 119, Atlanta, GA 30341 (firstname.lastname@example.org).
RTI authors were supported through a grant from the Kansas Health Foundation (# 201304006-01: Evaluation of the Kansas Health Foundation's Healthy Living Focus Area [HLFA]). The authors thank the HLFA staff for their input on the development and refinement of the theory of change: Elina Alterman, Chan Brown, Jeff Usher, and Carolyn Williams.
No conflicts of interest are declared.