More and more, nonprofits must be prepared to demonstrate results of the work. Funders, donors, the community, constituents and clients all depend on this information when making decisions.
Why Program Evaluation
There are many compelling reasons to evaluate your organization’s programs.
- Funding opportunities for nonprofits are decreasing.
- Our community needs are increasing.
- There are more nonprofits competing for funding.
- There is more public attention given to the nonprofit sector.
- Funders and donors are increasingly particular about where they place their financial resources and good program results are critical.
Over the past 25 years, I’ve seen program evaluation work evolve from a simple count of things, of to complex, data-driven, outcome-based systems. In the early days of my nonprofit career, we counted jobs created, students who graduated or streams that were cleaned. That’s not enough in today’s nonprofit world.
Early evaluative work usually included more anecdotal information, like testimonials and success stores, rather than data.
As funders and donors wanted to know more about the work, we had to figure out ways to demonstrate the difference our programs made.
People began asking for data. We had to figure out what the data was, how could we get it and what it meant. Then we realized that tracking data wasn’t enough; we needed to have a target to assess progress. Goals became a big part of nonprofit programmatic work.
Currently, a well-rounded program evaluation is goals-driven, with specific data points to determine progress toward the goal, sophisticated methods of gathering and analyzing the data, and effective ways to communicate results.
Share The Data
Program evaluations provide you and your staff with a wealth of information about the work of your organization. There are other effective ways to use this information. Share them with the community you serve so a broader audience knows your programs are working. Elected officials, who make decisions that impact nonprofits, are another audience for your evaluation reports. Your Board of Directors should be your first audience to use evaluation information for its decisions.