7 Pitfalls to Avoid in Evaluation (#4 Fear)
What do you think of when you hear the term “evaluation?” Test? Measuring up? Analysis?
If the idea of evaluation strikes a negative tone, then you’re not alone. Some nonprofit leaders bristle at the idea of evaluation because they are afraid that their program won’t measure up or that they won’t “pass” the evaluation. While these are sometimes legitimate fears, it is important to remember that evaluation can and should be your friend. When harnessed correctly, evaluation activities can set you apart from other nonprofits, demonstrate your impact to stakeholders, while giving constructive ideas for improvement. So, how can you make evaluation a friendly process instead of an intimidating one?
Tips for Making Evaluation a Friendly Process
- View evaluation as a learning experience instead of trying to “prove” something. This is critical. Any savvy donor will question the validity of an organization that claims to be perfect. Embark upon an evaluation journey by beginning with the questions that you want to be answered. What would you like to know about your program? What would help you make the right decisions?
- Be realistic about the expected outcomes. Furthermore, educate your stakeholders before the evaluation begins in terms of why you are pursuing the evaluation and what outcomes you expect to uncover.
- Use negative findings to create a sense of need among your donors. For example, let’s say your evaluation report indicates that the clients you serve wish that your service center is larger. Convey this to your funders. Tell them the positive (e.g., that the clients love the programs) but also tell them the need (e.g., that the clients felt cramped). Use this to your advantage and challenge your donors to be part of a solution!
- Finally, don’t pressure your evaluation consultant (if you have one) to produce the results you want. This may seem obvious, but it can be very tempting to eliminate important findings if you feel that they might have a negative impact on your communication. An ethical consultant will report what he/she finds. And if you are conducting your own internal evaluation, avoid the temptation of “cooking the books” so to speak.
Would you like help making evaluation (aka “impact measurement”) fun instead of intimidating? Contact me today for a free consultation!