Does a nonprofit have to evaluate everything?
How do we choose, given our limited resources?
For an organization with only one main program, the answer is easy: Yes, evaluate everything. However, things are quite a bit more complicated for those with multiple programs and especially multiple locations. In an ideal world, you’d be able to evaluate all of your programs. Economic realities being what they are, however, this may not be possible right away.
Following are some criteria to consider when determining which programs to place at the top of the list:
- Anything that might be considered a signature program or represents a growth area for your organization.
- Work that is (or should be) in a growth stage and appears especially promising.
- Programs that reach relatively large numbers of people.
- Those with relatively large budgets (as a percentage of your overall budget).
- Programs that, when evaluated, have the potential to demonstrate the importance of your mission and approach.
- Those that can potentially be scaled in other communities or otherwise inform the broader field of practice.
- Programs that funders require be evaluated.
The Colorado Nonprofit Association (www.coloradononprofits.org) suggests that nonprofits consider piloting an evaluation approach in one or two programs before rolling it out organization-wide. This enables the organization to better understand the time and financial implications associated with evaluation, as well as determine whether the evaluation is actually yielding the information it wants.