What’s in Your Evaluation Toolbox?

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What’s in Your Evaluation Toolbox?

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What’s in Your Evaluation Toolbox?

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*Note from Diane: When I am presenting webinars or in-person workshops, the resounding answer to the question I always ask “What is the part of the application you are most stressed about or you think could be improved the most?” is always EVALUATION! So in response to that overwhelming response, we are doing a full month of evaluation focused blog posts from colleague Amy Bonn. 


I live in an area where winter weather can be fickle and you can be stranded without power so it’s best to be prepared with a box of emergency supplies. Our box contains emergency essentials like bottled water, batteries and candles but it also has things that are important to our family: a pack of Uno cards, hot chocolate and a bottle of Dinosaur Barbecue’s Wango Tango Sauce (when the power goes off our neighborhood turns the barbecues on and we have some epic meals). If an evaluator was called in to assess the entirety of our box, they’d probably get a good sense as to who our family was and how we interacted with each other. I think they’d say something like “This family unit of four is prepared to take care of themselves and their array of animals for at least three days. From the contents of the box, it appears they are engaged in communal meals that while not nutritionally balanced, will suffice. The addition of games and other distractions indicate an ability to survive a stressful time.”

Setting up an evaluation plan (evaluation toolbox) for your organization is very similar to determining what goes into your emergency box. What is essential to your organization, what makes you special and what information/technical assistance do you need to complete your box. Before you fill up your evaluation toolbox, there are three questions you and your staff will want to consider.

3 Questions To Consider for Your Evaluation

1. What is essential to your organization? You need reliable data that tracks your organization’s history and performance. What information do you have (if this question makes you nervous, don’t worry we are covering this in the blog for next week). How do you track your clients? How do you measure how your staff’s time is spent? How do you know how effective your work is? These are the instruments and data that you’ll want to include in this section.

2. What makes your organization special? What does your organization do that no one else does? Who do you serve? What programs do you offer? What type of training/certification do staff members have? How do/can you measure (again don’t get nervous we’ll cover this in an upcoming blog). Does your mission match what you are doing?

3. Who can you call on for assistance? Evaluation work shouldn’t be done in a vacuum, it’s good to get an outside perspective either from a board member, trained volunteer, or a consultant. Who can take a look at what your organization does and help you tell your story? What resources are out there to help you set up and maintain a sustainable, meaningful evaluation plan.


So before the power goes out, review these questions with your staff to see what you have and where there are gaps.


In the coming weeks, we’ll help you figure out new tools and resources to refine and revise your evaluation toolbox so that you are prepared for any evaluation requirements that come your way.

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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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