Evaluation Best Practices
- Assign your most experienced and effective staff members to the project and provide them with adequate time, training, and money. In addition to directly improving your chances for success, this investment will communicate your commitment to program evaluation.
- Give stakeholders a voice in the planning process. Receiving feedback from a variety of sources will increase buy-in and result in a more effective, user-friendly plan. Depending upon your organization, you may want to seek input from clients, front-line employees, data entry workers and / or representatives of the legitimizing bodies that will eventually receive program evaluation reports.
- Start by mapping the relationship between your organization’s resources, activities, and goals (both short and long-term). Sometimes called logic mapping, this activity will help to organize and structure the program evaluation process.
- Focus on a few key indicators. Don’t try to measure everything. Use your strategy map to identify the critical variables that will determine success for each of your organization’s major activities and/or goals.
- Build in comparison opportunities. Data is most useful when compared – either between breakout categories or against last year’s data, a performance target, or a competitor. Think about what comparisons will be most useful when planning your program evaluation project.
- Check for accuracy. Successful program evaluation needs to accurately reflect reality. Have a professional review your proposed data collection tools and incorporate quality control mechanisms and audits into the data collection process.
- Understand the limitations of your program evaluation system. No data collection method is perfect. Learn the strengths and limitations of the one you are using, reexamine and revise it as necessary and combine two or more methods when necessary