Planning for Evaluation
Start with the End in Mind
Before you begin the evaluation process, you should have the end in mind – what will you do with your evaluation results? Who will you share them with? How will you incorporate findings to improve programs? What are your goals for conducting the evaluation? Considering up front your goals for the evaluation and how you will use evaluation results will help to ensure an effective evaluation process.
Who Should You Involve?
In larger organizations, most evaluations involve more than one person. One person should be designated the “lead” on ensuring the effective planning, implementation and use of the evaluation. And, evaluation team members should be considered and informed early on, and should have an active part in all aspects of the evaluation. Team members include organizational leadership who should support the evaluation from start to finish, the “lead” staff person who oversees the effective creation, implementation and use of the evaluation, the evaluation design team, and program staff members who will carry out the evaluation. Communicating clearly with, and involving, all of these people will ensure that the evaluation is carried out most effectively.
In smaller nonprofits, it's possible for one person to conduct many of the evaluation duties. During the planning stage, small organizations may consider including volunteers, board members or clients to ensure an adequate focus on community needs. Alternately, many small nonprofits may choose to hire a short-term consultant or a college intern to support intensive data collection over a short time period.
Determine Evaluation Resources and Budget
It is easy to forget that conducting an evaluation can require extra resources – including staff time, systems implementation, and for some, hiring a consultant. It is important to be realistic up front about the amount of time and resources your evaluation will take. Neglecting to think about resources can result in an evaluation that isn’t thoroughly implemented or complete. If you are considering hiring an outside consultant to help with your evaluation, plan to pay 5 – 20% of the total program cost on evaluation.
Hiring a Consultant
If the scope of your evaluation is large enough and you have adequate resources, you might want to hire an outside consultant to help with your evaluation. Here are some resources to help with your consultant selection process:
The logic model is a widely-used, useful tool for planning an evaluation. Although there are many other tools and methods that help to organize an evaluation, the logic model is a great place to start, and applies to almost any evaluation situation.
In essence, the logic model outlines a framework to help organize programs in a way that details what will happen over the course of the program in the following categories: resources/inputs; activities; outputs; outcomes; impacts. By outlining and detailing information in these categories from the start, program managers can consider what it will take to run the program and design the program to achieve the intended outcomes and impacts.
Using this model, program managers can organize programs in such a way as to be more likely to accomplish intended outcomes. Program managers can evaluate what actually happens against what they had originally intended, and use this information to make adjustments for greater efficiency and impact.
Two good resources for further information include: