Evaluation is the means to which nonprofits establish accountability to themselves, their clients and the public. Evaluation can be used to measure the impact and cost-effectiveness of an organization’s programs, as well as influence long-term planning, staff development, communications and fund development. In an era of accountability, a non-profit organization must be able to demonstrate to the community and their funders that their programs are making a worthwhile impact on society.
There is a wide variety of evaluation tools and designs that nonprofits can choose from. For example, the outcome measurement approach has been a popular choice for many small and mid-sized organizations because of its accessibility to staff members who may not have extensive evaluation experience.
American Evaluation Association
A professional association for evaluators; website provides information on conferences, trainings, software, books, and other resources
The Point K Learning Center provides free online planning and evaluation tools for nonprofits, as well as recommended links and resources
W.K. Kellogg Foundation
The Evaluation Toolkit offers information, advice, resources, and publications for nonprofits, including the Logic Model Development Guide and the Evaluation Handbook
Participatory Evaluation Resources
- Fetterman, David, and Abraham Wandersman, eds. 2004. Empowerment Evaluation Principles in Practice. Guilford Publications.
- Harvard Family Research Project
- “What is participatory evaluation? What are its roots?” - An article from the Harvard Family Research Project’s periodical, The Evaluation Exchange; provides a brief description of participatory evaluation with recommendations for further reading
- Suarez-Balazar, Yolanda, and Gary W. Harper, eds. 2003. Empowerment and Participatory Evaluation of Community Interventions. NY: Haworth Press, Inc.
- Whitmore, Elizabeth. 1999. Understanding and Practicing Participatory Evaluation: New Directions for Evaluation. Jossey-Bass.
Outcome Evaluation Resources
The United Way of America
A resource library of outcome evaluation tools, community indicators, reports and publications
Measuring Program Outcomes: A Practical Approach. 1996.
A step-by-step guide for nonprofits; includes a glossary, worksheets, models and examples from various agencies
The Urban Institute
Hatry, Harry P. 2007. Performance Measurement and Getting Results, 2nd Edition. Urban Institute Press.
A guidebook for nonprofit and government agencies with advice, checklists and examples on how to improve program performance through outcome measurement
- Outcome Indicators Project: A Joint Project of the Urban Institute and the Center for What Works
Provides examples and charts on how to measure nonprofit performance in 14 specific program areas, as well as a general list of outcome indicators that could be applied to any program; also offers a series on Outcome Management for Nonprofit Organizations that can be downloaded in PDF format and links to other performance measurement resources