St. David's Stories

Getting to Impact Together through Good Measure

By Ellie Haggerty Coplin, Evaluation Officer, St. David’s Foundation 


As an Evaluation Officer at St. David’s Foundation, it is my role to measure the impact of our giving on the Central Texas community. An easy task if our ultimate goal was to get grants out the door, but St. David’s Foundation’s vision is to make Central Texas the healthiest community in the world, an ambitious goal that we will not achieve without a deep understanding of what is working and for whom.

Throughout the Foundation, our work starts and ends with the people whose lives we are trying to change. For me, as the resident data nerd, this means keeping program improvement at the heart of our analysis. It is asking ourselves and our grant partners: what program adaptations have we made based on what we are learning? How can we adjust our model to build upon the strengths we are seeing from the data? These are not easy questions to answer and we are not alone in asking them.

That’s where Good Measure comes in

In 2015, we joined forces with five other funders including Applied Materials, Andy Roddick Foundation, Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, Mission Capital and United Way for Greater Austin.  Our goal was to strengthen our community’s ability to use data for learning and program improvement, because we believe that using data effectively will lead to greater community impact. What started as an idea for shared capacity building offerings has grown into a multi-pronged strategy designed to:

  • Improve Evaluation Capacity:  Ensure nonprofits receive the funding, training and tools they need to collect and analyze data to better understand their own impact and support continued improvement.
  • Enhance Community Access to Quality Data:  Establish robust systems, processes, and infrastructure that enable organizations to access and utilize community data to inform strategy and action.
  • Promote a Shared Vision for Evaluation & Learning:  Encourage nonprofit organizations and funders to embrace a culture of learning and to develop a shared understanding that data and evaluation play a critical role for both organizational and community improvement.

This month, Good Measure hosted the Data Institute, our largest event focused on bringing nonprofit and funder teams together for knowledge sharing and skill building. Over 300 guests from 50 nonprofits and funding organizations came together for a full day of learning. The Data Institute also marked the culmination of two of Good Measure’s core capacity building offerings for nonprofits.

Good Measure’s Data Institute took place on November 13, 2018 in Austin, Texas.

Creating change together in 2019

Through Good Measure, St. David’s Foundation has strengthened our own ability to use data for learning and program improvement. It has allowed us to test our thinking with other funders and has allowed us to reflect on our own practices, both the positive and the negative. In 2019, we are excited to expand these conversations to a larger group of funders where we will discuss the Funder Guiding Principles for evaluation and learning. Through a five-part series, we will explore how funders can change our own practices to better support learning and program improvement within our grant partner organizations. The principles lift up nonprofit learning as highest priority for evaluation, and then explores how funder processes such as grant applications, program budgets, and reporting can be adjusted to better support this outcome.

In addition to our funder series, we will be continuing our core nonprofit capacity building offerings and launching a new special projects fund design to strengthen the community’s data ecosystem. Interested in learning more? Sign up for the Good Measure newsletter and stay up to date on all of the upcoming offerings.

About Good Measure:

Good Measure is an association of philanthropic organizations such as private foundations, corporate foundations, family foundations and similar grantmaking organizations. Its members are dedicated to collaboration, transparency, measurement and innovation to maximize their grantees’ ability to transform lives. Good Measure produces educational programs, provides mentorship and training opportunities and works for increased access to quality data.

Ellie Haggerty Coplin is the Evaluation Officer at St. David’s Foundation.  In her role, she evaluates and measures the overall impact of the Foundation’s funding strategies and philanthropic work. Prior to joining the Foundation in 2013, Ellie served as the Program and Evaluation Manager at Cardea Services, managing a federal HIV prevention grant for Office of Minority Health and the evaluation of a federally funded multi-site teen pregnancy prevention program. Ellie began her career as a Bilingual Reproductive Health Specialist at Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas. 

Ellie has a Master of Public Health from Columbia University, and a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology and Spanish from Washington University in St. Louis.

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