Successful program evaluation


What three things should nonprofits ask themselves when evaluating their programs?


The philanthropic world today is exponentially more competitive that it was in the past, both in the numbers of organizations seeking funding and in the organized, sophisticated nature of the programs in place.

Thus, organizations always need to be alert to the most efficient and cost-effective ways of competing in that competitive marketplace.

The way you do that is through evaluating programs and learning from that evaluation.

* Does the case statement accurately reflect the organization, its vision for the future, and its impact on its constituency?

Organizations and institutions change in size and direction, but most frequently in the immediate specifics of the institution.

They may introduce new programs or reduce others and they don’t always translate those changes to a case, which articulates the vision and the direction of the institution.

Therefore they are not presenting an accurate current, and future, picture of their organization.

Very frequently they are talking about what was rather than what is and what is going to be.

* What is the return on investment of each major program component and what is the performance rating on each individual staff member?

Businesses spend a lot of time evaluating whether they are getting a return on an investment.

Most institutions, however, don’t spend a lot of time looking at how cost-effective, for instance, their fundraising efforts are and how changing their investments in certain efforts will impact the organization.

You can do that type of analysis on annual giving programs, on major gift programs, and on corporate and foundation programs, so that you really are aware on a factual basis of what you are spending and what you are getting as a result of it.

You can do the same thing with individuals.

More and more, individuals should have clearly defined, quantifiable performance goals.  If you really want to conduct it in a business-like manner you’ve got to compare set goals with actual performance.

* Are they maximizing the talents of volunteers and staff in relationship to the case and to the programs they have in place?

As an institution evolves in relation to its case statement, and as its programs evolve in relation to performance, you have to look at people and ask “are they in the right job at the right time doing the right things?”

I’ve seen situations where an organization has become much broader in its geographic impact, yet it still largely drew volunteers from its original service base, so it wasn’t reflective of the constituency it was serving.

I’ve seen situations where nice, wonderful, warm people were in positions at a time when a program was in its infancy and who are still in those positions even though the complexity of the program has grown past their power to influence it.

This is not making the best use of either the talents that are available to you or the people who are available to you.

— Complied by Caroline Monday

John P. Butler III is president of Barnes and Roche, Inc., a Rosemont, Pa., consulting firm working with nonprofits on fundraising and related marketing services.

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