How can we justify spending resources on evaluation when our budget is so tight?
This is a common issue facing nonprofits of all sizes. The reality, however, is that a properly executed evaluation can actually save your organization money – or at least bring in more of it – in the long-run. For example, let’s say you run a program that delivers low-cost food to those who need it, but you’ve experienced a lack of return beneficiaries, which are critical to your revenue stream.
You could assume that attrition is the result of reduced need, but that’s unlikely for everyone. An evaluation could reveal that your hours are not meeting the end-users’ needs. In that case, you might just change your hours. Alternatively, you might find that the products you offer aren’t meeting their needs, your services are duplicative of another organization’s, or that your intake process is too time-consuming. All of these can be easily remedied, but you won’t know what to fix if you don’t evaluate.
In addition, reliable evaluation results can serve as an important PR tool and may boost your credibility in the eyes of funders. You might also find that philanthropic funders are willing to include a line-item in your budget to enable you to effectively evaluate the program they’re funding. An evaluation is frequently of great interest to funders as it allows them to understand whether and how their investments are having the greatest impact. These are among the reasons that many funders’ grant proposal formats require that you indicate how you will measure impact.