How do you know when your organization is ready for evaluation?
Implementing evaluation is something that takes time, planning, and support. All nonprofits can benefit from an evaluation. However, not all are ready for evaluation. This blog discusses 4 tips that will help your organization assess whether you are ready for an evaluation or can become so.
There needs to be people in the organization who understand the value of evaluation and how evaluation can support their mission, vision, and goals. There needs to be buy-in. Individuals like staff, leadership, board members, and funders need to buy-in. Of course, not everyone may be on board at first, but if no one is ready, it is definitely not the right time. As long as there is some initial support from leadership then the organization is ready to go forward.
Start Small to Garner Support
When REC works with our clients, we create projects that provide opportunities to show the benefit of evaluation. We begin by picking low-hanging fruit with our clients and build from there. When people have a chance to see how evaluation can be a catalyst for positive change, they are more likely to support evaluation. They are more likely to work together and become better equipped to leverage evaluation for impact. Start small if there is some hesitance!
Provide Opportunities to Voice Concerns
For organizations that are ready for evaluation, it is important that all stakeholders have an opportunity to express their concerns and have input into what will be evaluated. Sometimes, when people do not feel heard, they sabotage a project or resist change. By giving people who are impacted by the evaluation a chance to share their thoughts, opinions, and concerns, you support the evaluation. This tip will increase the success of evaluation and encourage the adoption of the positive change that will come.
Leverage Evaluation for Learning Not Blame
The best evaluation efforts need to be viewed as a vehicle for learning, positive change, and strategic growth. It is not simply about creating a survey, logic model, or evaluation plan. It is about creating a culture that supports evaluation and makes it an integral part of the organization. Evaluation is not something that should be used to blame others or throw them under a bus. Leverage evaluation as a way to help ensure that your programs and services are making the kind of difference you want in the community and the kind of difference that justifies donors continued support.
Being ready for evaluation is a choice. It is something that an organization commits to because they are ready to strengthen their programs and services, willing to pivot (if needed), and want to learn. Evaluation needs to be at the forefront of how an organization serves its constituents. When done properly, evaluation can be your organization’s “competitive advantage”. These 4 tips will help your organization thrive as you embark and build your evaluation capacity!
If you have any specific follow-up questions to this blog post or any other research and evaluation needs, please contact Dr. Annette Shtivelband.