Phelps A-Z: Model 10
The need for non-profits and community organizations to stay in alignment with their stated mission and vision is critical.
Best practices for a successful evaluation include using an external evaluator, executing a structured plan with agreed-upon methods and tracking results and recommendations over time. The evaluation process can help the organization under review determine if key activities adequately drive and reflect desired outcomes.
Why evaluation is so important for your non-profit
Any number of experts can tell you that strategic evaluation is an important part of any business model. Without it, measuring the performance and success of your organization can be exceedingly difficult. Self-assessment and reflection are key elements of achieving any goal.
With regards to associations and non-profits focused on community engagement and improvement, evaluation is critical for ensuring programs and activities are matching up with desired outcomes. Meaningful assessment—conducted with the proper tools and planning in place—can help identify where programming could be adjusted to reach a particular goal. Conversely, an evaluation process can also help organizations identify outcomes that are out of sync with reality.
The need for non-profits and community organizations to stay in alignment with their stated mission and vision as well as stakeholder expectations cannot be understated. Best practices for a successful evaluation include using an external evaluator, executing a structured plan with agreed-upon methods and tracking results and recommendations over time.
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3 tips for successful program evaluation
Use an external evaluator
Taking a formal approach to evaluation with an external party opposed to internal evaluation alone can reveal biases and blind spots your team might be as of yet unaware of. Furthermore, an external evaluator typically takes on the task of analyzing data collected from an evaluation, reducing some of the process workload for internal teams.
While an external evaluator will prepare the evaluation plan, relevant tools and carry out analysis, internal team members usually assist with data collection throughout a given period of time. Think of the process as a collective effort to improve the organizational, rather than a critique of its work!
Agree on a plan and method of data collection
As previously mentioned, even if being conducted by an external party, evaluations should be a collective effort. This entails coming to an agreement with the evaluator on a plan of action for the evaluation, as well as what tools will be used in the process.
For example, Phelps Helps uses a developmental evaluation approach—along with an external evaluator—which involves gathering both quantitative data and feedback from program participants throughout the course of a school year. While other approaches might involve data collection only at a set point, Phelps believes the developmental approach empowers the organization to adjust and modify both objectives and programming in an agile way.
It’s important to set and manage expectations about which aspects of your organization, programming and activities will be evaluated at which time. Be reasonable! It might not be realistic to attempt to evaluate each individual program simultaneously. Doing so could also yield inconclusive results.
Reassess recommendations at next evaluation
Results revealed during the process of your non-profit or association’s evaluation will be analyzed by the external party and communicated back to the organization as recommendations for improvement. The evaluation process can thereby help the organization under review determine if key activities adequately drive and reflect desired outcomes.
Your organization isn’t absolutely required to act on every recommendation. Evaluation and self-assessments should be a continuous process. As such, the organization has an opportunity to reassess and reflect on past recommendations (regardless of whether they were implemented) during the next evaluation.
Get more best practices for managing your community non-profit
Addressing education and employment needs in our community for almost a decade, Phelps Helps has a lot to share when it comes to program development, organizational strategy and good governance. We know a thing or two about evaluation and self-assessment! Download our Phelps A to Z Handbook for more insights on running a successful community non-profit.