Evaluation and why it is important

  • December 14, 2021

We recommend all clients, especially those involved in any sort of research hire an external independent evaluator or at the very least formulate an evaluation plan and protocol before beginning any project activities. Funders will be expecting reports to record the outcome of the project they have funded. The process of compiling these reports takes time and effort, something many involved within the research will have little of to spare. Another reason we recommend evaluators to our clients is that evaluators are well seasoned in the arts of data collection, report preparation, and outcome analysis. Due to their experience, their reports are likely to be more accurate and detailed than those of a lay person.

The word “evaluation” often makes companies feel uneasy. A lack of familiarity with the tool leads companies to believe the process will be expensive and time-consuming. This is especially alarming to newer or smaller businesses with fewer resources. The good news is program evaluation doesn’t need to be intensive to be valuable. Evaluation is simply a method for collecting and analyzing data to measure the success of a project. We posted on this topic in 2017 (https://www.ebhoward.com/5-reasons-to-conduct-evaluation/) but feel it needs reiteration.

Evaluation is a process that critically examines a program or project. It involves collecting and analyzing information about a program’s activities, characteristics, and outcomes. Its purpose is to make judgments about a program, to improve its effectiveness, and/or to inform programming decisions (Patton, 1987).

Top reasons for evaluation

  1. Because it is mandatory or highly encouraged. Some funders make evaluation a mandatory component of project activities. This is common in both the federal and foundation space. Funders do this to ensure proper data collection and analysis will occur to measure the program’s success or to demonstrate the need for support of similar programs or to demonstrate a return on investment. Most funders require some type of program evaluation as a condition of funding. Demonstrating that you are planning ahead and have developed an evaluation protocol can go a long way toward showing funders you are serious about the project and its outcomes, which can increase your chances for funding.
  2. Improvement: Evaluation can provide useful data to drive improvements. This is most common in education, social programs, and healthcare programs, but can also be used in other industries. By determining whether the program serves its purpose, was conducted appropriately, and met its goals and objectives the team can implement new strategies to improve programming.
  3. Best Practices: Evaluation provides the tools to replicate and scale successful programs and determine and test best practices. This can lead to program expansion or a toolkit of best practices other organizations can use to replicate your success. Creating best practices for an industry offers a chance to become a leader in your field and excel at your program.
  4. Outcomes: Evaluation helps identify program outcomes and determine what works best and what needs to change. This enables program directors to make the program more effective. Being able to adapt, improve or eliminate program elements that do not contribute to success saves valuable resources which in turn increases profitability.
  5. Usefulness: Program evaluations can inform decisions on the future of a program. Evaluation offers data on whether a program is meeting the objectives or participant needs. Weighing the program costs and resources in comparison to needs and outcomes can calculate the return on investment and determine if the program should remain as is, change, or be discontinued.

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