Funders use evaluation to learn more about the organizations they support, hold grantees accountability, and monitor program implementation. Each funder has their own guidelines and requirements about what they want from program evaluation. By asking the following program evaluation questions, your organization can develop an evaluation strategy to address these requirements and balance funders’ requests with your organization’s needs.
Use these 5 questions to guide your conversations with funders and help ensure that you meet all of their requirements:
Question 1: What impact do you want to see as a result of this program?
While your nonprofit may already know the impact your program intends to make, it is important to understand what outcomes your funder is hoping to see. Having a clear outline of what your funder is seeking informs your evaluation plan to meet those needs. This approach also generates ideas about the kinds of data you could collect to assess impacts. Setting expectations and priorities from the beginning helps your organization gather the most relevant data and better utilize staff time, money, and other resources.
Question 2: How often do you want evaluation feedback?
It is important to know about your funders’ reporting deadlines so that there is sufficient time to prepare, collect, analyze, and draw conclusions from your data. Knowing this information will help your organization establish regular systems to conduct evaluation. Posing this program evaluation question can also help your organization build capacity to meet those deadlines, learn, and making data-informed decisions. Evaluation feedback also provides your organization the opportunity to both meet funders’ needs consistently and make changes to your program to better accomplish your desired impacts.
Question 3: Do you require an external evaluator?
Hiring an external evaluator may be required for a grant or funder. If an external evaluator is required, funders may stipulate that a portion of your funds are dedicated to evaluation activities. If funders do not require an external evaluator, your organization can use this checklist to determine if there are either resources to hire an evaluator or internal capacity to conduct the evaluation. Even when funders do not require them, high-quality external evaluators can provide specialized consulting and evaluative services that streamline organizations’ data collection efforts, make things easier for staff, and bring expertise to make data-informed decisions.
Question 4: What level of detail do you need for your evaluation?
When developing your evaluation plan, it is important to understand how detailed the evaluation should be to meet your funders’ needs. While your organization may only be interested in high-level findings, funders may require additional detail and context to meet funding priorities and support learning purposes. Understanding funders’ desired level of detail will prioritize your evaluation activities to meet expectations without spending extraneous time on tasks that are not mandatory or beneficial.
Question 5: What other information do we need to know about your evaluation requirements?
Finally, this question helps your organization learn more about funder priorities and build a stronger partnership. Funders may describe how they want findings shared (i.e., written report, presentation, video), what metrics are most interesting to this organization, or direct you to resources that support the evaluation effort. Asking this program evaluation question demonstrates your commitment and willingness to learn through the evaluation process.
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E. B. Howard Consulting, LLC. (2020). How to Tell if Your Funding Line Requires an External Independent Evaluator. E.B. Howard Consulting, LLC. Link: https://www.ebhoward.com/how-to-tell-if-your-funding-line-requires-an-independent-external-evaluator/?v=920f83e594a1
Healthcare Georgia Foundation: Grantmaking for Health. (2014). Selecting and Working with an External Evaluator. Healthcare Georgia Foundation. Link: https://www.healthcaregeorgia.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Selecting-and-Working-with-External-Evaluators_Apr-2014.pdf
Linfield, T. (n. d.) Measuring Outcomes. Madison Community Foundation. Link: https://www.madisongives.org/nonprofits/measuring-outcomes
Shtivelband, A (2021). When To Hire an External Evaluator – A Checklist! Research Evaluation Consulting LLC. Link: https://researchevaluationconsulting.com/when-to-hire-an-external-evaluator-a-checklist/
Shtivelband, A. (2022). Connect and Communicate – 3 Tips for Talking with your Stakeholders. Research Evaluation Consulting LLC. Link: https://researchevaluationconsulting.com/communicating-with-stakeholders/