Do you qualify for program evaluation?

Many nonprofit leaders would say they don’t. lucas-vasques-453684-unsplash.jpgWhy? Because they think that in order to conduct a “good” evaluation, they need to have an advanced statistical background or some type of scientific experiment. Forti (2012) writes, “ Some nonprofit leaders equate impact evaluations with randomized control trials and assume that if a comparison group doesn’t naturally exist for their work, then impact evaluation is not for them.”

While rigorous studies have their place, your organization might benefit from less-formal evaluation. Indeed, a small-scale evaluation project is better than no evaluation at all!

Tips for Developing an Evaluation Strategy That is Feasible for Your Organization

  1. Be realistic about what you are feasibly able to measure. If you aren’t sure, connect with someone skilled in evaluation methodology for advice.
  2. As stated earlier, view evaluation as a learning process, not a one-time “pass or fail” activity.
  3. Think through what type of evaluation is best for your organization. Are you ready for an experimental study? Or perhaps you are just getting started and are ready for what’s called a “formative” evaluation project.

For more insights, check out the source listed below. Also, if you need customized coaching in nonprofit impact measurement, contact me today for a free 30-minute coaching session!Sign up for a free

Forti, M. (2012). Seven deadly sins of impact evaluation. Stanford Social Innovation Review.  

Is your focus too narrow?

We’ve previously talked about how it is important to be strategic in what you measure, kasper-rasmussen-605345-unsplashand not try to measure everything at once. But it’s just as critical to not be too restricted in what you evaluate. Some evaluations only focus on outcomes: did we reach our target objective, rather than asking the questions, “Why or why not?” (Forti, 2012).

Furthermore, some people view evaluation as a one-time exercise. Perhaps it is something to satisfy a grant program manager, but the expensive evaluation results in a 50-page report that just sits on the shelf and collects dust.

So, how can you conduct an evaluation that actually helps your organization move forward?

  1. Focus your evaluation on exploring why certain strategies did or didn’t work. Don’t just limit your focus on whether or not they worked at all.
  2. Your evaluation report should incorporate some actionable recommendations that are feasible to implement in the future.
  3. View evaluation as a learning process, not just a once-and-done activity.

For more insights, check out the source listed below. Also, if you need customized coaching in nonprofit impact measurement, contact me today for a free 30-minute coaching session!

Sign up for a free

Forti, M. (2012). Seven deadly sins of impact evaluation. Stanford Social Innovation Review.  

Are you asking the right questions?

ken-treloar-346065-unsplash7 Pitfalls to Avoid in Evaluation (#5 Irrelevance)

Are you asking the right questions?

Have you ever worked with an external consultant to evaluate your programs? If so, did they produce a lengthy report? How much of the report did you end up using?

If the report was highly useful (and most nonprofit leaders report that they are ), then congratulations! You had a great evaluation coach/consultant. If however, you feel that the report was useful for the donors and no one else, then there were probably some missing pieces.

Tips for Making Your Evaluation Relevant

  1. Engage your staff and major stakeholders in the planning process. For more on this, go to the post on avoiding isolation.
  2. Talk with your evaluator about the final product and what your donor actually wants in terms of reports. Do your donors want the full technical report? An executive summary that is 6-8 pages long? Or do they prefer a 4-page snapshot report that contains a few photos and stories?
  3. Be focused on what you evaluate and make sure that what you measure lines up with your strategic goals. Tools such as one-page strategic snapshots, a theory of change diagram, and logic models are really helpful with this!

 For examples of what Puffin Strategies has done for our other nonprofit heroes, contact us today!

When you hear “evaluation,” what do you think?

fabrizio-conti-548618-unsplash7 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

  1. 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?
  2. 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.
  3. 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!
  4. 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!