Home Visitation: A Case Study of Evaluation at The David and Lucile Packard Foundation

Published: July 2002

Type: Teaching Case

This teaching case focuses on the Packard Foundation's evaluation-focused home visitation strategy for over a decade. 


Teaching cases are factual stories of one foundation’s in-depth experiences related to evaluation and learning. Stories highlight important challenges that confront foundations in their evaluation work, and put readers in the role of decision makers who are confronted with problems and options for solutions as the story unfolds. This teaching case was produced for the Evaluation Roundtable, a network of evaluation and learning leaders in foundations.


The David and Lucile Packard Foundation funded an evaluation-focused strategy for over a decade in a particular child development service area–home visitation–that had a seemingly substantial impact on the field and illustrates several important issues about the use and practice of evaluation in philanthropy.

While the Packard Foundation was in some ways uniquely suited to undertake an evaluation-focused strategy, the story of its involvement in home visitation unfolded one decision at a time, in a process not very different from the internal workings of other foundations and in organizational circumstances similar to other foundations. The Packard Foundation also confronted many of the issues that typically arise when foundations sponsor evaluation.

This teaching case explores the origins of the Foundation’s focus in child development and home visitation, the development of the evaluation approach, interpretations of the research, scaling of the approach, changes at the Foundation itself, case examples, methodological descriptions, and other aspects of the strategy and experience.