In the nearly twenty years that I’ve been an evaluator, there’s one reason I hear over and over again for why some nonprofits (and other organizations) shy away from program evaluation:
“Oh, we don’t need to do an evaluation. We know we’re doing great things!”
My reply is always the same:
“I’m sure you are doing lots of great things…but can you prove it? And do you know what you need to do to make more great things happen?”
One of the benefits of conducting an evaluation is the positive impact it can have on fundraising success. An evaluation acts as an accountability tool for those who might potentially give money to the organization, showing how and where the organization is most successful.
By creating an understanding of what works and doesn’t work, employees and volunteers for the organization can continually improve the services they offer.
Let’s use this example:
Fictional nonprofit, Water Everywhere raises funds to help communities in developing countries have access to clean water. They do this in a variety of ways, from airlifting crates of water bottles to installing filters on spigots and building wells in these communities.
When Water Everywhere has an evaluation conducted, they learn the effectiveness of each of their initiatives, essentially coming to understand how many people are helped per dollar of funding used.
If Water Everywhere finds that installing wells is the most cost-effective way of helping individuals long-term, they might then choose to focus more of their funding on that particular initiative and adjusting other efforts.
For instance, they may decide to airlift bottled water only in short-term crisis situations or selectively install filters on water spigots in areas prior to building wells. Water Everywhere can further pass on the information they learned during the evaluation process, and how they adapted delivery using that information, to potential donors.
These potential financial supporters not only gain an understanding of exactly how monies are used, but also learn that Water Everywhere can grow and adapt, using their funds for maximum positive impact.
Trina Willard, Principal of the Knowledge Advisory Group, strives to increase the amount of useful information in the world. Their mission is to provide tailored and flexible measurement solutions that improve decision-making, enhance efficiency, and demonstrate effectiveness. They specialize in providing organizations with research and evaluation services which inform planning and future organizational development.