Pulling up the floorboards: Reshaping accountability and evaluation in an era of core costs grantmaking

In this thought paper, Jim Coe and Rhonda Schlangen argue for evaluating effectiveness using a new accountability model.

Holding resources has traditionally meant that funders also hold the levers of power – and the ability to direct others’ efforts in specific directions. The authors discuss the opportunity created by general operating support and other efforts to institutionalize more trust-based relations between funders and the groups they support to fundamentally rethink accountability and effectiveness. As an alternative, the authors share a new, asymmetrical accountability model and evaluation measures that illustrate this reconfiguration.

Authors and their affiliation

Jim Coe and Rhonda Schlangen

Key features: Reshaping accountability and evaluation

In this paper, the authors examine assumptions about funder legitimacy and accountability and argue for a fundamental shift in how we evaluate philanthropic support for social change. It posits:

  • Resetting power dynamics between funders and organizations implementing the work and the communities they are a part of
  • A deep reexamination of what is important in the funder-grantee dynamic and who gets to decide it
  • Fundamentally reorienting evaluation and how effectiveness is defined and measured.

The authors propose that funders should operate as a trusted ally and partner, developing a legitimacy to act through the deep relationships they build with partners and communities.

"communities’ views about what would actually constitute effectiveness are typically not sought by funders. And yet, it is wholly legitimate to prioritize this community-level view."

How have you used or intend on using this resource?

This report has been used by evaluators and funders to explore implications of shifts toward more trust-based grantmaking practices. It has informed adjustments to accountability frames and effectiveness measures to include funders' roles and responsibilities to grantees and communities.

Why would you recommend it to other people?

This is a time of debate and uncertainty about equitable grantmaking and evaluation practices. Challenging some fundamental assumptions about the funder-grantee-community dynamic opens a clear path for funders who want to be able to channel communities’ priorities in their decision making.


Coe, J. & Schlangen, R. (2022). Pulling up the floorboards: Reshaping accountability and evaluation in an era of core costs grantmaking. Retrieved from: https://floorboards.report/