Introduction

For more than a year, the Urban Institute (UI) convened nonprofit/Community Benefit Organization (CBO) leaders from across the country and across specialization areas to develop a set of 14 program evaluation templates that can be used by diverse organizations who engage in any of the 14 types of programs that the templates reflect.

The design of these templates includes midway (i.e. “Intermediate”) and long-term (i.e. “End”) outcomes for the persons served by the program. This precision for mapping-out how to evaluate the program is important for ensuring that consumers complete the program with concrete benefits from having participated in the program (e.g. gained knowledge, skills, and/or networks).

The 14 program evaluation templates are comprehensive which also means that it can take some time to read and digest the content of the templates. This week, we provide two tips that support you in understanding and using these awesome, free tools!

Tip 1

Read the program evaluation template in the way that it is intended, then rework some of it to fit your vocabulary and organizational nuances.

Tip 2

Alter the design of the program evaluation template to reflect your program’s intended outcomes at the midway (i.e. “Intermediate”) and long-term (i.e. “End”) stages.

Steps Involved in Accomplishing the Tips

Tip 1

Read the program evaluation template in the way that it is intended, then rework some of it to fit your vocabulary and organizational nuances.

Because the templates are comprehensive and include some jargon, we recommend the following:

  1. Skip the column titled “Common Outcomes” and go right to the column titled “Program Specific Outcomes.” This column is what you will use to evaluate whether your program is doing what it is intended to do. (See pic 1)
  2. Add to the title of the column called “Indicators“ with something like this: “The information that will indicate whether or not our program is meeting the intended outcomes.“ This is the role of “indicators.” (See pic 2)
  3. Note that the column called “Outcome Stage“ is intended to be used for emphasizing when results should occur for the persons enrolled in the program. Results should occur at the immediate point of completing your program as well as within a certain amount of time after program completion. Every program in Human Services and Education organizations is designed to make a lasting impact.(See pic 3)

 

Tip 2

Alter the design of the program evaluation template to reflect your program’s intended outcomes at the midway (i.e. “Intermediate”) and long-term (i.e. “End”) stages.

Because you know which features of a program evaluation plan aligns with your program, it is important to alter or rework the template in the following ways:

  1. Start by agreeing on the end-goal; scroll to the bottom of the evaluation template move your way up, make sure that you and your team agree on what outcomes should occur because of participation in your program. Delete what you don’t need and tweak wording as appropriate. Complete this step by going all the way to the top of the template, having considered every row.
  2. Get more specific than the template in terms of data. Look at the column called “Data Collection Strategy” and decide on the needed data or information that you need in order to respond to the intended indicators and outcomes. The template provides vague phrases like, “Internal program records,” but be more specific in order to make your design legible to your entire team. Swap in phrases like, “Data from intake assessment” and “Case notes form.” These are the exact sources of the data that you will pull-out to use to start determining whether your program is meeting its intended outcomes. (See pic 4)
  3. Understand that this template can’t set benchmarks for your unique program and while benchmarks are not part of an evaluation plan, you and your team will benefit from setting benchmarks. For example, what are the goals that your program has for enrollment, attendance, satisfaction, hs graduation, weight loss, etc.? It benefits the program team to have visuals of which outcomes are met and which ones are not, year-to-year; strategizing and decision-making can be based in part from discussions of the benchmarks.

Picture 1

Picture 2

Picture 3

Picture 4

Closing

After following Tips 1 and 2, you will have a well-tailored program evaluation plan. Yet the next steps are equally important to consider:

  1. Develop a work plan with a precise timeline for how to unfold the program evaluation.
  2. Support your team’s participation in the program evaluation by assigning roles at the start and establishing how much time each month needs to be set aside for program evaluation activities.
  3. Establish monthly or quarterly meetings to problem solve any challenges that have arisen and or to being early analyses of the emerging evaluation results.

Additionally, we recommend that you also download all of the templates you think you might use someday; the UI is generous in their offering, but at some point they may change their direction and resources like the Outcome Indicators Project might become unavailable.

Why did we develop “2 Tips” videos?

The Anchoring Success team trusts the talent and sophistication of professionals in Human Services and Education organizations. We know that many professionals and organizational leaders do not have the funds to partner with specialists (like us) and/or the time to strategize on what might seem like extra projects.

Therefore, we launched these “2 Tips” videos to support you with making tweaks, adjustments, and refinements in programs and operations — doable for busy professionals in these organizations!