An Evaluation Cookbook: 6 Resources to Have on Hand

*This is the fourth in a series of evaluation focused blog posts by our colleague and team member, Amy Bonn of The Finch Network. If you missed the first posts, don’t miss reading What’s In Your Evaluation ToolboxGathering Evaluation Data, or Evaluating What Makes Your Organization Special.


My mom had a shelf of cookbooks in her kitchen with notations on the pages of favorite family recipes. She wrote about how she would change the recipe the next time she made it, who liked it, who wasn’t complimentary of the meal, and whether it was worth making again. Her approach to cooking is similar to how nonprofit can stock up on their evaluation tools. Read through evaluation material and websites, try some different activities out, get feedback on what you made and revise your programs accordingly.

6 Evaluation Resources to Have On Hand

Here are six of my favorite sites to help organizations think about how to integrate evaluation activities into their work.

1. A great starting point to orienting you and your nonprofit to evaluation activities is Colorado Nonprofit Association’s Evaluation: A Tool Kit to Support Principles and Practices for Nonprofit Excellence in Colorado:  Provides a great overview to evaluation work, terminology as well as how evaluation work can inform program performance.


2. Rainbow FrameworkBetterEvaluation: This is your one-stop shop to identify what evaluation activities suit your organization. The site includes decision-making questions, templates and best practices for each type of activity.

3. National Council on Non-Profits’ site includes tools and resource section includes a number of very effective templates and tools. This information is current, practical and a good starting point for nonprofit evaluation work.


4. The leader in outcome measurement, UWA has a bounty of material and trainings on outcomes and lots of affiliate groups have their own training manuals but the 1996 publication “Measuring Program Outcomes: A Practical Approach“ (yes, it’s an oldie but a goodie) is always worth a perusal.


5. Theory of Social Change– Taking outcome models to the next level and integrating the idea of measuring social change, the Theory of Social Change is an evaluation framework that can be helpful to articulate your organization’s performance. Theory-based Methodology: “Using Theories of Change for Development, Research and Evaluation” edited by Karen Laing and Liz Todd is a great guide to getting your and your nonprofit thinking about how to use this framework.


6. American Evaluation Association is the professional organization for evaluators and its website is a clearinghouse for resources and training opportunities. The site includes:

  • A database of professional evaluators
  • Coffee Breaks:  short coffee-break-length demonstrations of 20-minutes each that introduce tools of use to evaluators.
  • eStudies:  6 or 3-hour classes to build and hone evaluation skills.


And here comes the corny conclusion, it could have been taken straight from my mom’s Fanny Farmer cookbook. At its best, an evaluation will provide nonprofits with the ingredients to assess their work, measure change, and create a recipe for success.


What other go to resources and guides do you keep on hand or bookmarked to help with your evaluation portions of your grant applications?

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