Evaluating your programs is important, because everyone needs to know:
At every stage of your program evaluation can contribute to your decision making, predict challenges, and encourage reflection on outcomes.
You can also use your evaluation findings to communicate about how your initiative is progressing, its achievements, and your key learnings to your funder(s) and other stakeholders. Projects that have been appropriately evaluated can also demonstrate their success with data – a good spot to be in if you’re seeking additional funding.
Some funding arrangements require an evaluation – but this isn’t just a hoop for you to jump through. Done right, it’s an excellent tool for continual improvement.
The best way to ensure the success of your evaluation is to build the ongoing monitoring (data collection) and reflection into the program itself.
Evaluation is an investment in your program and your staff. The benefits of a well-conducted evaluation can have an invaluable effect on services. And it doesn’t have to be expensive – you’ll need some time and resources, but there are a lot of inexpensive options.
Evaluation is about improving your program, not eliminating it. The misconception that evaluation should show no place for improvement is common, but every program has room for improvement. Ongoing feedback to analyse, understand, and refine your program is essential.
Evaluation can be easy, especially after a plan is developed. Often the idea of evaluation is rejected because program personnel don’t believe they know how, or who to ask for help. But most staff already engage in evaluation on an informal basis, and with some guidance evaluating can be quite straightforward.
Evaluation can be creative, engaging, and exciting. It should also be visibly reciprocal to the community. When it is creative and reciprocal it can generate more ‘buy in’ from the community and participants. It helps keep your programs effective and strategic.