Four Steps to Effective Nonprofit Evaluation

By Peter Gamache, Ph.D. & Jackie Sue Griffin, MBA, MS, Turnaround Life, Inc.

With evaluation playing such an essential role in the success of a nonprofit, carrying out this process in a practical way has become more critical than ever. Unfortunately, it is all too easy to fall into the trap of performing evaluation simply for the sake of the funders, without making sure that the organization benefits from it as much as it should. Let’s have a look at what a nonprofit needs to do to ensure their evaluation process will be active and beneficial.

  1. Purpose of Evaluation

More than anything, an organization should be aware of what the meaning of the evaluation is before starting the process. If you focus on evaluating every single aspect of a nonprofit’s operations, then your analysis will lack focus and fail to provide the deep insights you need.

The entire point of effective evaluation is providing you with evidence that you can use to better your program, processes, and strategies. That means that the purpose of evaluation must focus on serving the organization, rather than the specific needs of the funders.

  1. Audience of Evaluation

However, that doesn’t mean that the evaluation should only be useful to the organization and neglect the funders. You should still have an intended audience for your evaluation process, as part of the reason for doing it is gaining more supporters. Whether you target the public, decision-makers, internal stakeholders or donors, it’s important to adjust the evaluation and the medium you’re using to target this audience to what their preferences are.

  1. How Will the Information Be Collected?

Depending on the nonprofit, it might be difficult to collect the necessary information or even measure the impact of a program. More often than not, the difference an organization makes is not easy to put into numbers as they usually tackle long-term societal problems.

However, all organizations must still collect data that accurately reflects the impact of the organization. Unfortunately, this is something many organizations struggle with, as it is a process that takes time and resources from the staff that is already often stretched too thin. This is why it’s vital for the organization to ensure its collecting of information can serve the purpose of evaluation before starting the process.

  1. How to Use and Implement Results

Any evaluation will be useless unless the organization can take the evaluation results and use them to improve its effectiveness. The most important part of making use of the results is sharing them with the audience they were intended for, and acknowledging what worked better (or worse) than planned.

Learn from the results and the response that you get, and make sure to take those findings and implement them in your future programs to improve them. Share your plans with the investors and the public, which will keep you accountable. Make the necessary reports on whether your organization has hit those goals or not, and refine your process with each subsequent evaluation you perform.

Even though evaluation work is tricky for many organizations, being diligent about it pays off. It’s important to remember that you’re not only doing it to keep the watchdog organizations at bay, but also to improve your nonprofit and ensure that you’re making the difference you set out to make.

Here at Turnaround Life, Inc., we aim to help organizations and programs that make it possible for people to turn their lives around. For more information about us, visit our website.