Grants: Finding The Right Evaluation Consultant

It’s almost inevitable that most nonprofits will need assistance from a professional evaluation consultant at some point. A funder might require that the program be evaluated by an independent expert.
A complicated program might be beyond in-house capacity to adequately assess. Involving an evaluation expert could give a proposal just the needed competitive edge. “Good evaluation consultants are worth their weight in gold,” said Barbara Floersch, chief of training and curriculum at The Grantsmanship Center in Los Angeles, Calif. “And since you’ll actually be paying that gold for their assistance, be sure you find the right one for your job.”

When selecting an evaluation consultant, due diligence requirements for any hiring apply. Studying resumés and checking references are a given. But to find a great fit, Floersch suggests considering these items as well:

Expertise in the field. An all-purpose evaluation consultant can offer a lot, but someone who’s an expert both in evaluation and in your field of interest can bring more value. Every field has its nuances, and unless a consultant understands them it’s easy to take the wrong approach. Interview with an ear toward the consultant’s understanding of the subtleties of your work.

Organizational Culture. A formal suit-and-tie approach might not be a good fit for a jeans and flip-flops organization. The norms and expectations within organizations vary and consultants who are experts in your field of interest can still be thrown off balance when confronting operational or management approaches that they perceive as foreign or wrong-minded. You’re not looking for a consultant-clone but you are looking for someone who can function optimally in partnership with your staff. Spend enough time with the candidates to understand how they’ll interact within your work environment.

Clarity of Reports. Ask to review a sample evaluation report. You’ll want to make sure the consultant can speak to you and your stakeholders in plain, understandable language and provide data assessments and reports you can use.

Interview deeply enough to get a sense of each consultant’s flexibility, responsiveness, timeliness, and sense of humor, all of which are invaluable assets in a working relationship. “Just remember, you’re in the driver’s seat,” said Floersch. “You’re looking for a partner to bring solid benefits to the project. You don’t want a dictator and you’re not looking for a savior. A well-qualified and well-suited partner is all you need.” © Copyright 2018 The Grantsmanship Center.