While it is common knowledge that evaluation costs money, the precise cost is unknown to many business owners. The cost of evaluation services depends on the project or program, the scope of work, the level of evaluation services rendered, and the size of the organization providing the External Independent Evaluator. Despite the variables at play, there is an average percentage of the grant proposal budget one can expect to allocate for the purposes of evaluation services.
The Bare Minimum
Costs for evaluation services are typically included in the budget of the grant proposal and do not incur additional out of pocket costs for hiring Independent External Evaluator. It is important to note that some funding lines cap the cost of evaluation (e.g. ranging from 5% to 7% of the budget) while others have an expected range for services (e.g. ranging from 7% to 10% of the budget). For years the industry standard hovered around 5-10%. However, more recent estimates push the minimum expected percentage for services as high as 20%. Most sources say businesses should expect to dedicate 13-16% of the grant proposal budget to #evaluation.
Tip: Always check the Request for Proposals (RFP) and/or confirm with the RFP key contact on what is an allowable cost and percentage for evaluation services before finalizing your budget. This will help frame the activities and role of the Independent External Evaluator.
Cost and service varies
Evaluation is a service that is available in varying depths and specificities. The final cost of any evaluation will depend upon the scope of work set forth by the funder. For example, a non-experimental design without control/comparison groups involved is easier and therefore costs less to evaluate than a project with built-in experimental design. For instance, the average for evaluating non-experimental projects have an average cost percentage of 15% (again, depending on the RFP requirements and parameters). Whereas grant-funded projects and programs with built-in various types of experimental design have an average cost percentage of 28% (again, depending on the RFP requirements and parameters).
Scope of Work
As with any service, there are different evaluation service packages available. Small agile firms especially are able to work with the client to create a customizable evaluation plan that suits their needs and budget. Some things to consider when choosing an evaluation package are:
- With what frequency will project meetings with the evaluator be required?
- Will data collection or analysis be part of the evaluator’s scope of work?
- How much detail will be required in the evaluator’s reports and will the evaluator be completing an Annual Evaluation Report?
- Are there any project-specific reporting guidelines the evaluator must follow? (This is common in both foundation and federal Requests for Proposals)
RFP Allocations for Evaluation
The good news is Requests for Proposals (RFP) for grants allocate a certain percentage to cover the cost of evaluation fees. This means that there is typically no out of pocket expense for evaluation services mandated by Request For Proposals.
Large firms vs small agile firms
It is important to note that small agile firms are just as capable of providing high-quality evaluation service as the larger firms. Smaller firms have reduced costs, lower fees, and less overhead baked into the cost of the evaluation (e.g. remote-based & mobile-ready – meaning no traditional brick and mortar office – and able to travel to program site locations all over the U.S. with state of the art technology in hand).
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