Program evaluation will demonstrate your understanding of your program and its impact, as well as eliminate guesswork and support sound decision-making going forward.
Some evaluations can be very complex. However, there are some simple steps you can take to ensure you have some form of evaluation in place. Read on…
If you don’t have a goal or multiple goals, you will not be able to tell whether your event or program will be addressing a particular need for your organization or the people you serve. Ask yourself, what are you really trying to achieve? That is your goal.
How will you know if you are moving towards your goal? If you have been running the program for some time, you are probably aware of what is going well and what areas might need some work. Questions will help narrow down what you should measure.
Identify what you want to evaluate and select the appropriate indicators. Measure areas that will help you find answers to your questions. This will inform your decision-making about changes needed going forward.
Once you know what types of data to collect, select the appropriate tool. Some tools work better to collect certain types of information. Remember to use tools that eliminate bias – you do not want to just collect feedback that you already know or want to hear. You want to gather the true reflections from a wide range of people. According to the Oxford Dictionary, bias is considered prejudice in favour or, or against one thing, person, or group, compared with another. The right tool will be the one that eliminates the most bias in the data.
|Interview||A face-to-face conversation with participants where they are asked questions about their experience. This is useful for identifying change in skill levels or change in behavior, as well as collecting reactions and feelings.|
|Questionnaire/Survey||A series of structured questions that measure participants’ responses, either in-person or online, following their participation. This is useful to collect both qualitative and quantitative data, cost-effectively from a large sample of individuals, by using fixed alternative scales or open-ended questions.|
|Observation||Observe and analyze conditions or behaviours that can be counted, classified or rated. This is useful if you are measuring indicators that you don’t want to ask people directly.|
|Focus Groups||A group of participants brought together, usually in person, to provide their feelings, opinions, and perspectives on a subject to a moderator. This is useful if you want to explore more in-depth feedback, including reactions and feelings from participants.|
|Real-time Survey||Collect input from individuals as they are participating - usually through the use of a handheld device or a cell phone. This is useful for collecting real-time data that can be shared immediately with a group of participants.|
|Registration Data||Collect information through the registration process. This is useful to easily identify audiences, participation rates, return rates and trends.|
|Existing Data||Identify data that already exists from similar programs or activities to use as a benchmark, or as a comparison, to achieving program goals.|
Once you’ve collected your data, return to your program goals and evaluation questions. Be clear on what you hope to ascertain from this data – you will need the right data to answer your specific questions. Do a basic analysis of all quantitative data (all the numbers) and then, analyze all the qualitative data (verbal answers). Qualitative data is important too – you may have to summarize testimonials and feedback for easier review. Use this data to formulate answers to your key evaluation questions.
A final, and extremely important, part of the evaluation process is the creation of a report that outlines what you found out and recommendations for going forward. To determine what type of report to prepare, consider who the audience is for this information. If it’s an internal document, you can write it in point form. If it’s for your board or funders, ensure that you include the information needed to explain your process and recommendations.
Program evaluation is not always an easy process, but it is extremely worthwhile. It will demonstrate your understanding of your program and its impact, as well as eliminate guess work and support sound decision-making going forward.