What is an evaluation plan? Why should I create one?
An evaluation plan is a roadmap that identifies the goals and ways in which you’ll collect and analyze data. This includes which information you’ll collect, along with how, where and when you’ll collect it. It identifies your research methods, those responsible for carrying out the plan, timelines and budget.
One of the most important aspects of your plan is articulating the questions that the evaluation will be structured to answer. Frequently this will relate to both outputs (e.g., the specifics of what is being done – services provided, number of people served) and outcomes (i.e., the actual change that resulted from the program.)
For example, let’s say you run a technology training program for at-risk youth. Output-oriented questions might look at the number of trainings conducted, number of people served, retention rates, and things like meetings with community leaders or policymakers. Questions geared toward outcomes might measure beneficiaries’ increase in skills, changed attitudes, behavior changes, etc.
The number one reason you should create an evaluation plan is because you want to deliver the very best programs and services. An evaluation plan helps you to refine your data collection and assessment practices so that the information you glean is most useful to advancing your mission and the objectives of the program. It also helps to establish a culture of evaluation within your organization whereby people are always thinking about how to make sure the necessary information is being gathered to improve programs.
Evaluation results can also be extremely useful communications tools that help you more efficiently respond to your funders’ needs. They can be significant credibility builders that increase your capacity to raise funds for the program.
Need help identifying appropriate outcomes for your program?
The Center for What Works (www.whatworks.org) has teamed up with the Urban Institute to develop recommended indicators for nonprofits working in 14 different issue areas.