There is a great deal of resistance in our organization toward evaluation, what can we do?
Internal resistance to evaluation is a common issue for many nonprofit organizations. It could be that staff feel the program is moving along just fine so evaluation is seen as a waste of precious time. Other frequent concerns are that the evaluation findings might result in a discontinued program, lost jobs or an increased workload. Sometimes resistance is related to staff insecurities and lack of experience with evaluation.
Strong internal communication is the key to generating the internal buy-in necessary to carry out an effective evaluation. Be candid about the purpose of the evaluation and your team’s role in carrying it out. Don’t be afraid to address the hard questions (e.g., “What if the findings are negative?”), and above all, stress the evaluation’s role in advancing your mission and program objectives. To increase comfort levels and fully engage your staff, invite them to ask questions and provide suggestions about the evaluation. Consider establishing a system that invites this input anonymously so your staff can raise issues that might be considered sensitive. Also keep in mind that devoting staff meetings to training and/or engaging a consultant to provide technical assistance can help allay fears and move the process forward.
It’s also very likely that your program staff will be involved in data collection. They may, for example, be responsible for completing intake forms or administering pre- and post-service surveys. It’s critical that staff understand the importance of these activities and their relationship to program planning, refinement and continued funding. To that end, it’s important to build internal capacity for evaluation. Key staff need to understand, feel confident and have a good working knowledge of evaluation to support the effort and contribute effectively. If you aren’t completely comfortable in this capacity-building role, consider engaging an expert in the area.
Finally, take steps to ensure that staff are comfortable with their roles, have the opportunity to ask questions and suggest refinements, and are involved in the design process. After all, your program staff are often in the best position to know what information can be gleaned from your beneficiaries.