Evaluation

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As entities that serve the public, nonprofit organizations have an obligation to demonstrate their value to the public. The public has a stake in nonprofit performance and is entitled to information regarding organization results. Nonprofits should regularly measure their performance against a clear set of goals and should share such information with their constituents. Nonprofit evaluation should be appropriate to the size and purpose of the organization and evaluation data should be used to continually improve the quality of processes, programs and activities.

Infrastructure Checklist

Strongly Recommended

Yes No In Progress Not Applicable Not Sure
Accountability, data collection & monitoring systems
Environmental scan and/or community needs/assets assessment
Evaluation procedures
Written contracts with external consultants


Recommended

Yes No In Progress Not Applicable Not Sure
Formative evaluation plan & systems
Outcome evaluation plan & systems
Program evaluation plan & systems
Assess evaluation practices & modify as needed
Process for sharing results with the public
Solicit stakeholder input/feedback


Practices Assessment

Methodology & Measurement

No/Not Begun In Process Yes/ Complete Not Applicable Not Sure
We have defined, ongoing and sustainable procedures in place for evaluating our programs, procedures, and outcomes in relation to our mission.
Our evaluation strategy is ongoing and includes input from a wide variety of stakeholders including staff, board, funders, community members, etc.
Performance measures are realistic, specific, measurable and appropriate to the size and scope of the organization and its constituents. Measurement includes information on satisfaction, activities, results, and community input; both qualitative and quantitative data; and data on efficiency and effectiveness.
We employ appropriate data collection and analysis tools in order to produce accurate, timely, and useful evaluation information.
We conduct evaluations in ways that are culturally sensitive and appropriate to the communities we serve.
Information that is collected from persons served is kept confidential, and we never identify specific persons served unless we have their written permission.
We have a thorough understanding of the community in which we operate, including the needs of constituents, services provided by the government and other nonprofits, and applicable trends (i.e., economic, demographic, etc.).
We regularly monitor the needs and satisfaction of stakeholders and provide a grievance procedure to address complaints.
We utilize external evaluators when appropriate and feasible. These evaluators follow the Guiding Principles for Evaluators set forth by the American Evaluation Association.
We have a written memo of agreement/contract with every external evaluator and/or consultant.

Use of Evaluation Results

No/Not Begun In Process Yes/ Complete Not Applicable Not Sure
Evaluation results are communicated to a broad range of constituents including staff, board, constituents, funders, and community members.
Measurement informs the operational plan and is used to evaluate organizational effectiveness.
Evaluation results are used to strengthen and improve our programs and activities by incorporating evaluation findings into strategic planning processes.
Our programs take into account and respond to the experience, needs, and satisfaction of the constituents they serve.
We train our personnel in evaluation methods to improve their understanding and utilization of data developed from evaluation activities.
We actively assess the usefulness and accuracy of our evaluation practices and modify them as needed.
We share relevant lessons learned with other nonprofits and funding sources.


Walking the Talk

  • When designing a new program/project, identify very specifically how it will impact your mission through measurable outcomes addressing identified needs.
  • Consumer feedback should be a significant component of ongoing evaluation efforts. Develop an evaluation plan (including surveys, focus groups, post-service feedback and other tools) that includes regular consumer feedback. Have the board review results of the feedback and discuss both successes and challenges. Board recommendations should be carried back to staff (via the Executive Director) for program evaluation and adaptation as needed.
  • Familiarize yourself with various methods of evaluation to determine which approach is best for individual programs and projects; one size does not fit all.
  • Establish with staff that evaluation planning is an up-front activity rather than a last-minute reaction. Solid goals and objectives lead to effective evaluation plans.
  • Plan on at least 5% of a program’s budget for evaluation costs. This is a commonly accepted range for funders, and includes the cost of staff time to develop and process evaluation tools, copying, postage, etc. If you use an external evaluator, the cost jumps to 10% or more. Research in advance what method/approach is best for each program.
  • Establish a process for periodic review of evaluation feedback. If you run frequent programs/projects, you may consider compiling results of like programs for a thumb-nail sketch to present to board members.
  • Review evaluation feedback with staff following each program/project. Generate a list of improvements or “lessons learned” and file it where it will be incorporated into planning upcoming projects.
  • Develop a mechanism for sharing evaluation feedback with key stakeholders. Consider devoting a section of your newsletter to “recent feedback,” or including anecdotal and hard data in your annual report. You should be able to show your impact on the issue as effectively as you can demonstrate your passion for the cause.
  • Evaluators should follow the national Guiding Principles for Evaluators set forth by the American Evaluation Association.