William Schambra's The Evaluation Wars, written in 2003, and republished in Amy Kass's anthology, Doing Well Doing Good, makes an interesting complement to Bill Somerville's Grassroots Philanthropy. As does Somerville, Shambra lands on the common sense point that positive social change should be visible to the naked eye. We learn what works by forming personal relationships with those who receive grants and by "eyeballing" what those nonprofit partners accomplish with the resources provided. Our best efforts may be swamped by factors we cannot control, but by doing a little good face to face in our own backyards we may be doing the best anyone reasonably can.
Visualize a funder working at maximum potential: What is she or he doing? Sitting at a desk reviewing a spreadsheet? Skimming a grant proposal from a huge stack? Or, shoulder to shoulder with a nonprofit ally, loading onions on a truck headed to a soupkitchen? Is grant-making best conceived of as a managerial desk job?