Evaluation may seem like an “extra” activity that can be discarded or delayed when resources are tight and time is short. But in fact, evaluating your program is even more important in such situations, because you cannot afford to be wasting scarce time and money on programs that are not making a difference. Clarifying your goals and outcomes, and measuring the desired results of your various activities, become more crucial.
Evaluation takes time, but with careful thought you can design a flexible and cost-effective strategy. In working with nonprofit organizations, I have found that several obvious points can help guide the decision-making process:
- Start where you are, and gradually add more evaluation activities
- Begin by measuring a small number of outcomes that are directly linked to your mission and your activities
- Communicate to your stakeholders what you are (and are not) able to measure, and what resources would be required to do more
- Identify at least 2 or 3 outcome indicators that you can measure and track quantitatively
- Combine your quantitative outcomes with some success stories and narratives
- Don’t get discouraged–developing or improving a strategy for measuring outcomes is a long-term process