The Program Evaluation Process

Many nonprofit leaders view measurement and evaluation with dread, most likely because it’s a mandated activity. When choice is removed from the equation, it’s difficult to get excited about the task at hand. However, we at Brighter Strategies encourage you to look at measurement and evaluation as an opportunity for improvement. Use our simple, step-by-step outcome measurement model to create and track meaningful goals for your organization. And take advantage of our program evaluation process, described below, to make informed decisions about the future of your organization’s services.

Program evaluation unpacked

This blog article takes you through the nine-step process for collecting information about a program. In our next blog article, we’ll illustrate the program evaluation process in action through a real-world case study.

  1. Assess your readiness.

    Program evaluation starts out on the same foot as outcome measurement. A gap analysis is one way to assess readiness. It compares your program’s actual performance with its potential performance by asking: “Where are we now?” and “Where do we want to be?”

  2. Start with the end in mind by identifying clear program outcomes.

    Last month’s blog article, “The Role of Outcome Measurement, Part I,” describes how to determine program outcomes that will accurately capture the results you wish to measure. Well-developed outcome measurement and program evaluation systems are difficult to separate.

  3. Develop a data collection plan.

    Choose qualitative and quantitative data gathering methods that support your program’s needs such as surveys, interviews, focus groups, and research. This blend provides a richer, well-rounded picture of your program.

  4. Identify resources.

    Identify the relationship between the things you want to do and the resources required to do them. These resources are considered the program inputs, which comprise the first half of the program’s logic model.

  5. Determine program outcomes.

    There’s that word again! You’re becoming an expert on outcomes by now. One new differentiation worth mentioning: Outcomes, which indicate program effectiveness, are different from outputs, which indicate program efficiency. Both are visually captured on the second half of a program’s logic model.

  6. Review and analyze data.

    You have a plan for collecting program information and a clear understanding of the components (inputs, outputs, and outcomes) of the program. Now it’s time to gather, review, and analyze data that answers the original evaluation questions you identified at the beginning of this process. Data analysis software or business intelligence expertise is often required at this stage.

  7. Create a logic model.

    A logic model, as referenced previously, is a systematic and visual way of presenting relationships between the need for a program’s existence, resources allocated to meet the need, day-to-day activities that make up the work of the program, program outputs, and program outcomes. You’ve already determined the components of your program’s logic model during the first six steps of this process, and now is the time to put those pieces together. For an example, go here.

  8. Track and use outcome and evaluation results to inform strategic management.

    An outcome measurement scorecard provides a succinct and standardized way to keep track of program outcomes and mark progress over time. It also allows for easy reporting.

  9. Integrate results into strategic program planning.

    Evaluation is intended for action. Use action planning to generate a roadmap for who is going to do what, by when, and in what order to ensure you make program improvements. Such planning should take place on a higher level within the organization as part of your organization’s overall strategic planning process.

For more details on the above process, check out organizational development consulting firm Brighter Strategies’s resource guide, “Evaluating Performance Outcomes: A Guide to Implementing Program Evaluations.”

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