Whether your program year ends June 30 or at some other interval during the year, it’s important to capture your client outcomes and demonstrate the outcomes related to your mission.
Two primary reasons why evaluation of nonprofit programs is so necessary, especially when applying for grants.
Evaluation helps your program and gives your organization critical feedback that tells you if it works, how well it works, and how to improve it.
Funders Require It
Whether a foundation, a corporation or a government agency, funders want to know if the project they funded worked or not.
It’s important to know how you will evaluate your project, when you will do it and how you will report your results. Think about all these things during program design and then annually during continuous quality improvement action planning.
How to Do Evaluation Right
Here are some tips to help you develop that important evaluation section for funders and as part of grant proposals.
Internal Evaluation or External?
Decide if you are going to do an internal assessment with your staff, or if you want to hire outside expertise to conduct your evaluation. Foundations often allow nonprofits to designate 5-10 percent of the total project budget for evaluation. Do your research and ask funders if they will support your impact measurement efforts.
Before you design your evaluation, consider the reasons to do it. Evaluation assessments can accomplish these six purposes:
To find out if the hypothesis was right. Did you do what you set out to do?
To determine if the methods specified were used and if the objectives were met.
To find out if an impact was made on the identified need.
To obtain feedback from the people served and other members of the community.
To maintain control over the project (evaluations often take place at various points in the plan allowing for corrections).
To make changes in the program mid-stream, if necessary, to ensure the program's success.
Quantitative or Qualitative?
Decide the quantitative or qualitative methods for your data collection, and what combination of the two types you will use. Develop a good description of these methods and why you're using them.
Integrate the Evaluation.
Make sure the evaluation component of your proposal connects with the proposal's objectives and methods. If those targets and methods are measurable and time-specific, the evaluation will be easier to design.
Ask yourself these questions as you develop the evaluation section of your proposal:
What is the evaluation's purpose?
How will you use the findings?
What will you know after the evaluation that you didn't know before?
What will you do as a result of the evaluation that you couldn't do before because you lacked the relevant information?
How will your clients and community be better as a consequence of the program?
Measuring outcomes is not just about attracting resources to your nonprofit; it's about the mission.
Your nonprofit will only know that it is indeed helping individuals, solving problems in communities, and protecting the environment etc., if it is evaluating its performance.
Identifying and communicating impact are also important activities for any charitable nonprofit since donors understandably want to know that their donations/grants are making a positive difference.
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