This spring I’ve been lucky enough to be working with a colleague on a multi-program evaluation project after an extended absence from the world of outcome measurement. It is a bit like riding a bicycle, in that your never forget HOW to do it, but it seems I did forget the pleasure that is found in working with agency staff as they help inform the evaluation plan and models, assist in identifying key indicators and witness the first round of data come in for review. Each project allows me to get up close and personal with a new nonprofit organization as well as to meet exemplary, dedicated nonprofit professionals at all phases of their careers, but there is something about evaluation that really gets to the essence of a nonprofit. I am, indeed, glad to be back in the measurement mix.
My colleague shared this link with me and because there is so much I love about this succinct, on point article, Six Pieces of Advice to Demystify Evaluation by Johanna Morariu, Director of the Innovation Network, I wanted to post on it rather than just send the link off into the tweetosphere.
No matter where your organization is in the evaluation (or for that matter strategic) planning process, start making data collection your friend. Immediately. It’s not going away (ever), there are more tools than ever before to help with it, and even if you hire an outside firm to conduct your evaluation – eventually their contract ends and it falls to your organization to sustain it. Don’t spend a dime on a contract or software until you know you will be able to do so. Not to worry though, a thorough consultant involves you and your staff in each step of the process and will provide the necessary technical assistance during the transition to ensure you will be able to take over the reins.
So, feel free to make eye contact with and extend a hand to that evaluation. Soon, when you are knee deep in useful data for your board, clients, funders and community supporters you won’t be able to remember life without it.