Gathering Evaluation Data

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Gathering Evaluation Data

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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:

 

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.

About The Author
Amy has worked with and for nonprofits for over 20 years as a practitioner, researcher and consultant. She oversees the creative direction at Finch Network as well as business development. Amy has worked with local, regional and national organizations including the National Alliance to End Homelessness, Rural Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), the Corporation for National and Community Service and United Way of Tompkins County. She specializes in program planning, fund development and qualitative research. Notable projects include a fellowship she completed for the Corporation for National Service where she conducted an evaluation of program sustainability of AmeriCorps*VISTA projects, coordinating an allocation process that invested $1.3 million dollars annually to health and human service nonprofits in Tompkins County and leading the qualitative research portion for two evaluations conducted for City Harvest. Amy has a strong commitment to her own community and volunteers with her local Foster Care program, Plattsburgh Community Garden and in Plattsburgh City Schools. Amy holds a B.A. in American Studies and a teaching certificate from the University of Rochester and a graduate degree in Community and Rural Development from Cornell University.

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