Gathering Evaluation Data
In case you missed the first post in our month of evaluation focused blog posts, you can catch up on What’s in your Evaluation Toolbox.
When done well, evaluation data tells the story of your organization. It informs clients and other key stakeholders of your accomplishment, your goals and how you are making meaningful change with your work. I hear a lot of non-profit practitioners say “how can you measure social change” or “our work can’t be summarized by an outcome model” and while it’s true that it can be challenging to put metrics on difficult social issues such as prevention services and long-term care, it can and should be done. If you have the appropriate tools in place you can take many of the anecdotal stories of change that you hear in your lobby, a board meeting, or after an effective program you’ve run and use this information for evaluation activities.
You’ll first want to figure out how to frame your evaluation instruments and I suggest using the following questions to begin generating the evaluation tools to collect your data:
- What do we want to learn from our evaluation work?
- How can this inform our decision-making process?
- What do we want to learn from key stakeholders (clients, alumni, funders, collaborators)? What questions do we want to pose to them?
- Do any of our current, or potential, funders have evaluation requirements that we need to consider as we develop an evaluation plan?
Next, you’ll want to consider what methods are the best ways to collect your data. Quantitative data provides you with a broad sampling of information, you can typically collect it inexpensively and online tools are readily available to help your create reliable instruments to assess your organization’s progress. The cons of qualitative data are that it provides breadth but not always the depth of information. This is where qualitative data can come in to help fill in the “why are people responding to our questions a certain way and how do people feel about changes to our organization. Doing a combination of both, a mixed methodology approach, is a good way to create a balanced, meaningful evaluation plan for your organization.
Typical quantitative activities include questionnaires, surveys, pre and post-tests. On the qualitative side, typical activities include focus groups, stakeholder Interviews, program observations and case studies.
Some great resources for information about how to set plans up, templates and best practices, take a look at:
- Issue Lab: An online warehouse for nonprofit research and resources, is a free service of the Foundation Center
- The Impact Foundry
- PerformWell: A project of the Urban Institute, Child Trends and Social Solutions. The website provides a bounty of tools for generating evaluation data as well as assistance putting that information into the most useful format and using the findings to inform/revise practices.
- “How to Conduct a Focus Group” By Judith Sharken Simon
- How to Create the Perfect Questionnaire (AND Get Responses) by Angela Cuadros
What other resources do you have bookmarked for information to help with setting up your evaluation plans and serve as key references? We’d love to hear! Please share with us in the comments below, or by emailing us at info@ dhleonardconsulting.com.