Types of Evaluation
Outcome-based evaluation is generally the most common form of evaluation, but there are many others, including goals-based and process-based assessments.
Outcome-based and Process-based
With decreasing funds and increasing community needs, there is pressure on nonprofits to demonstrate the effectiveness of their programs. Outcome measurement is a method to measure whether and how programs make a real difference in the lives of people. Ask yourself what outcomes you want to see as a result of your program or programs. For example, maybe you want members of your community to be able to find jobs. Once you’ve identified your desired outcomes, prioritize the ones you want to examine. Then specify what measurements will reflect progress towards these outcomes, referring to specific activities, such as providing training or transportation. Then you can create targets for those outcomes, identify information needed to analyze those measures, and ascertain the best way to gather that information.
In conjunction with outcomes-based evaluation it is best to also perform process-based evaluation. Process-based analyses are not geared to analyzing results, but rather studying how and why programs produce those results. This can be useful if you have received complaints or concerns about your program, or if you want to communicate how your program functions to those outside your organization. Questions to ask when you perform this method involve asking how employees or volunteers conduct programs, provide services, and interact with clients. It also involves analyzing the strengths, weaknesses, and challenges of a program. It is best to do both outcome-based and process-based evaluation at the same time because it will allow you understand the reasons why you received the outcomes you did.
Often programs are formed to accomplish specific goals. Goals-based evaluation assesses the extent to which programs meet goals and how they could progress in the future. If your organization wants to evaluate progress towards a goal, this method may be best.
Ask yourself if your goals were formulated using an effective process, and how you can measure progress towards them. Develop timelines for goals or analyze whether your current timelines are accurate. Assess whether personnel have enough resources to reach goals, whether priorities should be changed, and how goal-making should take place.
When identifying your inputs, outputs, and outcomes, it may help to use a logic model, a tool for analyzing what goes into, and comes out of, your programs. UW Extension provides a free online course on how to develop a logic model.
For information regarding both goals-based and process-based evaluations, visit the Free Management Library's online Basic Guide to Program Management.
These are specific methodologies that can be used to employ the types of evaluations above to better evaluate programs.
Other methods of analysis include utilization-focused evaluation which promotes evaluation based on intended use by intended users. More information can be found at Western Michigan University's Evaluation Center.
Qualitative evaluation focuses on accounts of experience of programs, and uses in-depth interviews, fieldwork observations, and documents. More information about qualitative evaluation is also available at Western Michigan University's Evaluation Center.