Hesitation about engaging in program evaluation is sometimes about money. However, there are creative wats to address the financial challenges to affording in-house or consultant-based program evaluation.
Most often, community-based organizations neglect program evaluation because of their experiences and assumptions about what program evaluation entails. Who can blame these organizations! Evaluation sounds like “judgement,” “valuation of organizations,” and “appraisal of importance.”
Less often, but still relevant, some organizations are not aware that they are not participating in program evaluation.
Here’s how you know that your organization is engaged
1 | There is specific information shared with stakeholders about the gains made by program participants in terms of knowledge, skills, and/or community connections. This sharing might happen through the website, annual report, or letters to donors. Check-out this example of Focus Forward’s Planned Re-Entry Program.
2 | Your program leadership and staff team distinguishes between gains made by program participants (outcomes data) and demographic and service information (attendance and outputs data).
3 | The organizational website posts the findings from program evaluation activities.
Swap-in a new, more on-target phrases rather than “program evaluation” in order to adopt a wholehearted appreciation for the advancements that program evaluation affords: “exploring impact,” “understanding participant gains,” and “observing program successes.”
(Re)educate your team about what engaging in program evaluation says about your organization’s values (refer to the handout below).
Feel Good About Program Evaluation
Ultimately, you and your team are the experts on what it takes to deliver your program. Remember that program evaluation activities never expose your organization’s “dirty laundry.” The opposite is true! Check-out the handout that accompanies Tip 2!