This week, we continue our discussion about program evaluation.

The Center for Nonprofit Excellence gives us this definition:  Evaluation examines the design, processes, implementation and outcomes of a program. It enables an organization to deliver services, demonstrate impact, and provide information for future improvements. 

There are different types of evaluation. You may use all these types over the course of a lengthy or ongoing program; you may need to use only one of these evaluation activities for your purpose, all depending upon the unique circumstances of your nonprofit and its programs.

A formative evaluation will inform your decision about the feasibility of a program or activity. This evaluation technique is frequently used during the new program development stage.

Process evaluation examines the delivery of program activities, looking to see if implementation happen as expected.

You have probably been engaged in some sort of outcome or effectiveness evaluation as this is usually the first thing we think of when the evaluation topic arises. This type of evaluation measures the effectiveness of your programs on your target population; it looks at short- and long-term outcomes and objectives.

Outcome and effectiveness evaluation activities, over the long term, will become an impact evaluation. This examines program effectiveness toward reaching the ultimate goals.

Program evaluation is a topic that nonprofits have in common with for-profit businesses, as they also evaluate the effectiveness of their marketing. Here are some commonalities. Outcome evaluations verify a nonprofit is helping constituents. Evaluations can note strengths and weaknesses of programs, leading to positive program adjustments. A program evaluation can tell your nonprofit if your program if functioning as you intended it to function.

Additional common elements of program evaluations include: informing management about program goals and progress; producing data and information to share with the community and donors; and provide information for decision-making about changes or additions to programming; and identifying program duplication.

Program evaluations relate to nonprofits, to for-profit businesses, to government entities and to education. A result of this activity impacting a variety of sectors is a wealth of information from a myriad of different sectors, populations, locations, etc. You can learn a great deal about program evaluation by examining best practices of evaluation in all these sectors.

Links to the evaluation resources mentioned:

Program Evaluation

Center for Nonprofit Excellence – Resource Evaluation

Management Help – Program Evaluation