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.
Some funders tell you what to measure, others will accept whatever you measure, and some do not care if you measure anything. At the end of the day, you should be measuring something because it is a best practice to evaluate your programs and once you stumble across a funder that requires it you will be reach.
Whenever an organization is seeking a grant for a program that requires an evaluation component, I ALWAYS encourage them to request money for evaluation. If a funder is requiring you to do something as part of your grant, then they should be willing to pay for it. If they are not, feel free to write a review for them on GrantAdvisor.org, a website where nonprofits can anonymously provide feedback to foundations on their processes.
Often times government grants will appoint an evaluator for you are they are telling you to hire an evaluator as part of your program. When budgeting for evaluation as part of a program it is best to estimate between 10-15% of your overall budget for program evaluation. For example, for a program of $100,000 it should likely cost around $10,000 to evaluate the program effectively. That is not all money out the door to an external evaluator; however, it is a good way for you to account for staff time, potential survey software, etc.
Here are three questions to ask when hiring an evaluator: