Nonprofit organizations are responsible to the community it serves. They are set up to provide services, solve problems and improve the quality of life for people. Up until a couple of decades ago, funding to support organizations would be handed to nonprofits without proof that the work being done was successful. With 1.8 million nonprofits in the country and with limited funding, the government, foundations and donors have been demanding nonprofits show true impact and effective delivery of their programs. Nearly all grants require evaluation of the programs they are funding.
Mario Marino, who wrote Leap of Reason, says the problem is “We don’t manage [for] outcomes, thus greatly diminishing our collective impact.”
This acknowledgement places a call to all in the nonprofit sector to come up with ways to evaluate their organizations and programs. Now nonprofit organization must use evaluation in various areas utilizing an array of evaluation methods and tools.
There are different kinds of evaluation and I have summarized them below. These can be found in the Project Evaluation Guide for Nonprofit Organizations by Fataney Zarinpoush.
Formative Evaluation is to help early in the project to help assess the what the project scope will be, the need for the project, and how the project will be implemented and assessed. It is a high level and larger scope form of evaluation.
Process Evaluation tracks the implementation and completion and like the formative evaluation and helps to monitor the project.
Summative Evaluation measures that the project has a set of goals and objectives specific to the project and tracks the effectiveness of the project.
Outcome Evaluation is probably the most well-known and can be the most difficult. Like the summative evaluation it assesses goals and objectives and goes further by assessing the effects of the project as well as recognizing the positive and negative impacts of the project.
Nonprofits should consider starting with the big picture and narrowing down to each program. The formative and process evaluations can be used in strategic planning and development of programs for the organization. Summative and outcome evaluations really share the true impact of the organization with detailed evaluation tools.
One of the common concerns I hear from nonprofits is that there is not a way to evaluate their programs/projects because they are more subjective than objective. Since obtaining funding is predicated on proving impact, it’s important nonprofits become creative about how and what kind of data they gather. Here are many types of evaluations to consider implementing when evaluating your programs. Some of these methods are more formal than informal and quantitative versus qualitative. Depending on what you are trying to prove, using different methods, even for the same project can provide a well-rounded view of the project.
- Skill Tests
- Focus Groups
- Evaluation Forms
- Journal Recording
- On-Site Visits
- Activity Logs
- Observation Notes
- Anecdotal Records
Once you have completed conducting the evaluations, it’s important to be able to analyze the data and interpret the results. With quantitative data it may be easier to accomplish this, but with qualitative data it’s important to keep in mind what the goals and objectives that you have identified for the project are and how to best show the results meeting these pre-identified measurements. Remember you want to be able to prove your impact and success, especially when communicating the information whether for funders or to the community.
Grant writing for impact and results require a clear description to the funders of your intentions to evaluate your programs. By hiring a professional grant writer your organization can develop evaluation systems and processes. Many nonprofits have utilized my grant writing services which includes all aspects of obtaining the grant, including preparing your organization be ready for the grant process.