3 Key Components of Program Evaluation
I. Obtaining Leadership Support for Evaluation Efforts Leadership support in your organization is crucial to understanding the importance of evaluation results for program implementation. Leaders also have the authority to address quickly any changes that are needed in programs so they can be as successful as the agency hopes them to be. Asking the right questions is key to getting the evaluation results you need.
Good leaders know both the importance of asking good questions, but also will help staff articulate the key questions while the program is being created, rather than as the program is being delivered. Successful evaluation speaks to the strengths, as well as the weaknesses in program design, implementation and/or participant results. Any one of these may need attention after evaluation results are analyzed.
Program evaluation design and data collection both have long lead times. Evaluation design is best done while the program design in being finalized. Leadership support will help ensure the time and resources for the program evaluation design are available to program teams and become integrated with the program itself. Once teams realize that evaluation results are part of the program and are crucial for future funding, team members are much more willing to collect and analyze their evaluation results.
II. Creating Logic Models for Each Program
Most every trip I take in my car starts with a Google map or other Internet map. For some destinations, there are several routes that can be chosen; while, for other routes, there is clearly the best choice. Evaluation logic models are really just maps for your program, with the car being analogous to your program, the car’s riders analogous to your participants and the end destination being the goal of your program. Along the route, there are key road makers or major intersections, which are equivalent to the short and long term indicators and outcomes of your program. Each program can have numerous outcomes, but the program goal should be the key that leads you to the outcomes and indicators you choose or the route you take to get to your program’s goal.
Creating a logic model gives you the opportunity to choose the best path for your program goal, the resources you need as inputs, as well as the short and long term objectives that lead to being able to accomplish your goal. There are many good sources for information about how to develop good logic models. For example, you may start with the American Evaluation Association site at: http://www.eval.org
III. Using Measurable Indicators
Writing good indicators is really an art – it takes time and practice to create useful and measurable indicators for your program. Indicators may seem to be all-encompassing without the details to translate into meaningful results. Here is an example:
Youth attendees will gain more self-reliance
But who are your “youth attendees”? Are they youth that attend only one session or that have been with your program for months? How much gain in “self-reliance” are you expecting? Is it a level that could be easily gotten by chance as much as by attending your program?
Finally, how will you measure “self-reliance”? Is it easy or hard to measure and will the instrument you use actually measure the same self-reliance that you want the youth to obtain? Instead, a more meaningful indicator might be:
80% of the youth, who attend at least ten sessions of our program, will be able to give a five-minute presentation on a new skill they learned during our program.
Now you have an indicator that defines which youth you will measure, what the youth need to do to show they have accomplished a goal and a way of measuring that goal that is equitable across the participants. It also shows how many youth you are expecting to accomplish this goal.
Evaluation results can help programs better focus on which program indicators and objectives will guide program results, giving your programs a better chance of succeeding as well as being able to tell a meaningful story to your funders and supporters.
Strategic Consulting and Coaching offers Program evaluation as a service to nonprofit organizations. To learn more about this and additional offerings visit: strategic-cc.com