In this post, I am sharing five reasons why agencies should conduct evaluations regularly.
1) IMPACT- Since the key aim of working in charity or non-profit is making a difference, it is of vital importance to know whether or not the project or intervention is ACTUALLY making a difference (Sugden and Baillie). The challenge, however, is to know what exact part of the intervention had the biggest impact (ibid).
In the literature, this type of evaluation is called outcome evaluation or impact assessment. These evaluations are called summative assessments, which means that they are conducted at the end of an intervention, and they examine the effects or outcome of a project and whether the intervention caused the outcome (Trochim, 2006). Assessing a program’s effects (or impact) is the most critical evaluation task because it deals with the “bottom line” for programs (Rossi et al., 2004). In essence, impact assessments help you understand whether your program is working or not.
2) FEEDBACK TO IMPROVE – Some evaluations also provide feedback that informs how services or programs are developing, to help the program improve. Many times, this feedback comes from the program beneficiaries, and the organization can learn from this to improve services. One important outcome of gathering feedback is that the organization can give more personalized or tailored attention to its beneficiaries (Sugden and Baillie). As Sugden and Baillie said, “it’s important that we actually help people have personal outcomes and outcomes for their lives”.
Contrary to the summative evaluation mentioned above, this type of evaluation (or feedback) is called formative evaluation. Formative evaluations can be used to strengthen or improve the project, many times by analyzing delivery, quality, personnel, procedures, among others (Trochim, 2006). These evaluations are conducted while the program is still running, and the information gathered is used to improve the program, or as Sugden and Baillie put it, “to pick up emerging themes”.
3) BASELINE ASSESSMENT – A baseline assessment is conducted before the program or intervention begins, and it helps identify goals and understand the current need for intervention. During program implementation, this baseline assessment can help both the organization and the beneficiary to see how much improvement there has been. This type of evaluation is also called a needs assessment, and helps understand what is the need of the intervention, and is done before the program is implemented.
4) FUNDING – External funding is essential to the majority of charities and non-profit organizations, so knowing what type of evaluations will help the organization get funding is not a minor issue. For example, many of their evaluations plans are connected to funding contracts (Sugden and Baillie). Funders usually want to see specific and concrete outcomes, to ensure that their funds are making a difference.
In my experience, this is a critical piece of the puzzle, since without funding many programs cannot carry on. Unfortunately, many times this creates a catch-22 situation where the organization needs funds to conduct an impact assessment, but cannot get funds unless they show that the program has had an impact. I have also seen that organizations are getting more strict and sophisticated with their evaluation needs, which means that organizations need to be better prepared in order to conduct better evaluations, and thus being eligible for funding.
5) MOTIVATING STAFF – Conducting evaluation can also help organizational culture by motivating staff. It is important for staff to see the difference that they are making and understanding the impact of their work (Sugden and Baillie). In my experience, this is very important to ensure programs work efficiently. Many times, charities and non-profits have high turnover rates because of low pay and long work hours. Since these organizations cannot afford to pay more, what they can give in return is a good work environment where the employee feels valued and sees the impact of their work.
These are just five reasons of why it is important for agencies to use evaluation methods, but I hope it is useful information for organizations seeking to incorporate more evaluations into their every day.
Rossi, P. H., Lipsey, M. W. & Freeman, H. E., (2004) “Measuring and monitoring program outcomes” from Rossi, P. H., Lipsey, M. W. & Freeman, H. E., Evaluation: a systematic approach pp.203-232, Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage
Sugden, G. and Baillie, M. n.d. Podcast Interview about Waverley Care and Evaluations.
Trochim, W.M.K., 2006. Introduction to evaluation. Available at: http://www.socialresearchmethods.net/kb/intreval.php.