Program evaluation is the process of collecting information about a program in order to make decisions about it. Including an evaluation plan in your program shows that you take your objectives seriously and want to know how well you have achieved them. More and more foundations expect to see an evaluation component in the programs they fund.
IssueLab Results is a place for foundations and nonprofits to share funded evaluations and to access the lessons of their peers and colleagues. It includes three key features to help change makers build on each other's knowledge:
- Share Results: A place to learn about the initiative, find out what we're up to, and upload your most recent evaluation.
- Find Results: A growing, open access collection of evaluations AND a tool for visualizing not just what has been learned but who is funding and implementing evaluations on the issues that matter to you.
- Measure Results: A curated collection of reports and methodological guides focused on building the evaluative capacity of social sector organizations.
According to Dr. Lee Mizell, a research and management consultant to public, private, and nonprofit organizations, an evaluation plan should, at minimum: clearly identify the target population
- specify program objectives in measurable terms
- identify key indicators of success
- outline data collection and analysis activities
- develop a timeline to monitor the success of the program on an ongoing basis.
However, nonprofits frequently design and implement evaluation activities after a program is up and running, making it difficult, if not impossible, for evaluators to gather the information they need to accurately measure the success of the program.
Although at least 35 different types of evaluation exist, you should first focus on what you need to know to make the decisions you need to make, and how to accurately collect and understand that information. The method(s) you choose will depend on the project and its objectives. If you plan to apply for grants, you probably will need to describe how information will be collected, analyzed, and reported.
To learn more about program evaluation, Outcome Thinking and Management: Shifting Focus from Activities to Results is our daylong fee-based class that teaches how to adopt the popular outcomes approach to your projects.
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