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Jun 11, 2018 | Insights

Three Questions to Ask Before You Evaluate

Download the FREE chapter on evaluation best practices from our Executive Directors Guide



Evaluation has become an essential process for nonprofits, particularly small and mid-sized organizations that are required to report to funders on the progress of initiatives and programs.

The big question is, where to start?  Unless an organization has someone on staff with evaluation experience, the whole process can seem daunting. Before you start drafting surveys, focus groups or other tools, take a step back and consider the following:

1. What are you evaluating?

Think about what exactly you are evaluating. You might not use the same type of evaluation tool or technique for assessing the outcome of a new program that you would use to determine the effectiveness of management functions like fund development. Evaluation is not a one-size-fits all process.

2. Why are you evaluating?

Don’t evaluate for evaluation sake! Think about why you’re examining these activities. Asking the questions below will help you determine what type of evaluation you’ll want to use. Are you:

  • Trying to find out if the activities are helping clients?
  • Informing future planning?
  • Understanding how and initiative got off the ground?
  • Finding out if activities are having an overall impact?
  • Assessing the impact of these activities on the organization?

3. Who is your target audience?

How you present the findings of your evaluation will change depending upon the audience it is intended to reach. Think about who your audience is in advance so you can be thoughtful about the presentation beforehand. Is the evaluation:

  • Internal to a team or department?
  • For the staff of an organization?
  • For the management team?
  • For clients?
  • For the entire agency?
  • For the funders?
  • For the general public?

Once you answer these questions, you’ll be better prepared to select the appropriate evaluation type for your activity and save time on framing the results for your intended audience.