By Erin Weldon
Describing your plans for evaluation can be especially tricky for organizations just starting out, as you may not yet have strong evaluation systems in place. Ideally, an evaluation program not only demonstrates success to the funder, but also provides the program staff with crucial information to help them improve their programming. It’s important to communicate with the program staff to ensure (1) they are willing and able to implement whatever evaluations you propose in the proposal and (2) the evaluative tools will also provide them with useful information. It’s always better to plan ahead than to backtrack, so work a plan for evaluation into your program design now to avoid scrambling to gather data for a grant report later.
Your evaluation plan should, at minimum:
- specify program objectives
- identify indicators of success
- outline data collection activities
- develop a timeline for monitoring the program.
When planning your evaluation process, consider the question: How can you measure not only the services provided, but the impact they have on your clients? Once again, look back to your need statement and consider the important long-term effects of your program. A strong proposal explains not only how you will measure the services you provide, but also how you will measure its impact.
For example, consider a program that provides nutritious meals to senior citizens. Your first thought might be to measure success through the numbers of meals served. However, this metric only demonstrates the services provided. You can take things one step further by showing how the services have a greater impact on health and well-being. For example, consider measuring increased access to nutritious food, health indicators (such as weight and blood pressure), or intake of fruit and vegetables. A client survey is a great way to quantify client satisfaction.
- Tools and Resources for Assessing Social Impact (TRASI) --This online database, managed by the Foundation Center, contains a comprehensive listing of 150 approaches for measuring and analyzing social impact for programs and investments.
- The Outcome Indicators Project, from the Urban Institute provides a framework for tracking nonprofit performance, including several useful tools for outcome-based evaluation and including ideas of performance indicators for 14 different program areas.
- Outcome Measurement: Showing Results in the Nonprofit Sector describes current efforts, success, and challenges in measuring nonprofit success.