Evaluation Plans Start With The Right Questions

January 19, 2017       The NonProfit Times      

A solid evaluation plan is a selling point for a grant proposal. It shows funders that your organization will hold itself accountable for delivering a high-impact program. “Good evaluation plans are based on essential questions,” said Barbara Floersch, executive director of The Grantsmanship Center in Los Angeles, Calif. “The starting point is defining what you need to know.”

Because stakeholder groups with differing information needs are often involved in a program, settling on the final evaluation questions can be challenging. Like other aspects of collaboration, the process involves negotiation and compromise.

After requiring each stakeholder group to define and prioritize its evaluation questions, Floersch recommends appointing a small, experienced team to assess all suggestions and draft a final set of questions. Because the final questions will be the basis for the full evaluation plan, the list must be thorough but also manageable. Here are a few issues to consider.

  1. Does the scope of the plan match the scope of the program? “An evaluation must be ‘right sized,’” said Floersch. “That means it should be appropriately matched to the complexity and scope of the proposed program.” Stakeholders will need to settle on what’s most important to them rather than demanding a “kitchen sink” approach.
  2. Will the evaluation schedule produce findings that can be used to improve the program? “Good evaluations provide timely information that can be used to assess progress,” said Floersch. “If the program is getting off track, ongoing input from the evaluation can help you plan course corrections.” Hammer out evaluation questions that will result in a steady stream of useful information as the program unfolds.

Once the primary questions are defined, you’ll flesh out your assessment approach in the evaluation plan. “The evaluation plan will provide details on what you’ll measure, the data you’ll collect, and how you’ll analyze and use results,” said Floersch. Defining the primary evaluation questions is the starting point. ©Copyright 2016, The Grantsmanship Center. All rights reserved.