Evaluation is HARD work, so if you are struggling with it go ahead and take a deep breath…Feel better? If not, we hope this post will help alleviate some of the anxiety you might be having.
If done correctly, evaluation can take a little or a lot of time – not helpful, yeah, we know. The time it takes for you to evaluate your program truly depends on what you are seeking to measure. For example, if you are wanting to track participants from your middle school leadership program through high school it can take a lot of time and money to track these students. However, if you are looking to evaluate students at the end of the academic school year on how they have increased their capacity of leadership then it can be less time and money.
“Have we changed the world yet?” – That is a great question, but very complicated for an evaluation to answer. Have you changed someone’s world – potentially. Evaluation is a complicated component of nonprofit management, especially since whenever we get asked questions about evaluation our initial response begins with “It depends…”
A lot goes into providing a direct answer to an evaluation questions because in order to respond properly it needs to be known what they intended program outcomes are, what is being measured, how the program is being delivered, and much more.
However, we are here to give you permission to take a deep breath and understand the fact that you do not have to save the entire planet. It takes a village, and in this case your program is just one villager. Therefore, be realistic on what you can accomplish with your specific service area and be proud of the change you are helping to create in your part of the world.