Many sectors including business, government and social enterprise use evaluation to assess their work. Understanding how best to use evaluation in our nonprofit organizations can be challenging for a variety of reasons. Here are some commonly-asked questions and challenges we’ve heard about evaluation from nonprofits in Peel.

 

QHow is evaluation different from performance management?

Performance management is an ongoing process of monitoring and assessing how well an organization is progressing against set goals or targets. Evaluation, on the other hand, is a process that has a defined beginning and end and provides an opinion on where and how an initiative has been successful or not.

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QDoes gathering feedback after a training session or event count as evaluation?

Collecting post-training feedback can be part of an evaluation plan. However, surveys done shortly after an organized activity can only measure reaction. Evaluation digs deeper to learn what changes have occurred that can be attributed to a program or organization.

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QI don’t have any experience in evaluation. How do I get started?

You’ve come to the right place. We’ve structured our evaluation resources to take you on an evaluation journey, so start with the first section Learning about Evaluation to begin building your evaluation knowledge. Through the tools and templates provided, you will also be able to assess your organization’s capacity to undertake evaluation.

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QI come from a small nonprofit organization. How can I evaluate within my organization’s capacity?

There is no cookie cutter in evaluation! Once you get clear on what you need to know, it will be easier to choose the approach and tools that work best for you. Learn more about where your organization is on the evaluation continuum by completing our evaluation readiness quiz.

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QI know funders want us to evaluate, but what’s in it for us?

Getting clear on what YOU need to know about your results, not just what the funder requires, can help uncover important insights about your work – insights you can use to plan future work that will be even better! Making evaluation work for you will also help the time and effort invested feel worthwhile. You can learn more about how your organization can benefit from evaluation by visiting our Learning about Evaluation section

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QWhy is data so important when it comes to evaluation?

The data collected about program activities provides evidence of how your nonprofit is making a difference. It can signal to what extent you are meeting your outcomes or objectives. It can also inform ways in which programs or services can be improved. The data your nonprofit collects and also be combined with data collected by other nonprofits to build a case for support for broader community initiatives. To learn more about the role of data in program evaluation, visit Understanding Data to see our templates and tools.

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QHow do I know if the trends I’m seeing in my own programs connect to what is happening in other nonprofits in my community?

Find out who is collecting data that relates to the social trends locally and read their reports. Statistics Canada, social planning councils and Community Foundations are good sources for this kind of information. If you have a specific question regarding data, ask us!

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QHow does evaluation connect with program planning

Planning and evaluation are part of a cycle. When we use evaluation to help us understand our impact, we can make changes to our deliver and make our programs even better.

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QFunders always want a plan for evaluation on grant applications. How do I create one that actually helps both the funder and my organization understand if we have been successful?

Just as programs and projects support our broader strategic goals, evaluation should also be geared to measure our success against those goals. Gathering stories from those we have helped, can be a great way to expand our evaluation efforts in a way that supports the funder’s need as well as our own.

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QWhat’s the difference between outcomes and outputs?

An output relates to the amount of something that is done. This includes things like number of participants or clients served. An outcome is the change to the people, families or community that has happened as a result of our work.

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QI’m worried that evaluation will show funders and my community what we haven’t achieved. What do I do if my evaluation reveals less than optimum results?

Evaluation is a way to understand why and under what circumstances something has worked or hasn’t worked. Framing evaluation as a learning opportunity for our organizations can show funders and our community that we are active in our intention to offer the best impact we can and improve as we go along.

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QIs evaluation a good way to manage the performance of staff?

No. In order for evaluation to be truly useful, those involved must be able to offer their honest feedback and participation. When used to highlight underperformance or to stimulate competition, it can have a negative impact on the culture and future performance of our staff teams.

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QWe already collect a lot of information about our program activities. Does that count as evaluation?

Having our data collection activities in place is a great step towards evaluation. Evaluation, however, is organized and deliberate with a clear understanding of the reasons for evaluating. Knowing the ‘so what’ of the information we collect can help to ensure that our data is useful to us.

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QFunders seem more interested in programs that are new and innovative. How do I get funders excited about a program that is already in operation?

Collecting stories that show the difference we are making can be powerful and inspirational, particularly with programs that have been around for a while. Check out our Finding Stories section of the resource area.

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QI already understand evaluation and am very comfortable with data, is there anything this site can offer me?

Would you be willing to share an experience you had with evaluation that we could share on our website, or perhaps write a guest blog? We’re always looking for fresh perspectives on evaluation to share with our peeps. Get in touch with us!

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QAs a funder, I’d like to help nonprofits use evaluation more effectively. How can I use this site as a way to help improve their capacity to evaluate?

Please share this site with anyone you think could use it. We offer a variety of resources to help people get started with evaluation, so check out our resources page along with our events page for opportunities to connect in person.  We also offer evaluation planning support to nonprofits in Peel Region, so please contact us to learn more.

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QI’m from a nonprofit outside of Peel Region. Am I still eligible to use this site?

Welcome! We’re happy you’re here. Please make use of our resources and tools and sign up for our newsletter. We’d love for you to join us. At this time, our in-person learning events and evaluation planning services are only available to organizations in Peel Region. If you aren’t sure if you’d qualify, please contact us.

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QI’d love to share my knowledge of evaluation with other nonprofits. Can I do it through this website?

We’re always looking for new voices in evaluation, through guest blogs, interviews and adding new resources to the site. Get in touch with us to learn more.

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QHow do I convince others in my organization the importance of evaluation?

Send them to peelevaluates.ca so they can read the evaluation stories and blog posts. Learning how evaluation has helped real people and organizations can help our peers and leaders understand the real benefits of evaluation.

The ONN has created a conversation guide intended to spark a dialogue with leaders and stakeholders about what they hope to learn from an evaluation and identify ways to make it useful for everyone.

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QDoes this website replace the need to hire a professional evaluator?

Trained evaluators with professional credentials are highly skilled and can ensure your evaluation process and results are credible and complete. Depending on the size and complexity of your organization, hiring a professional evaluator may be what is needed. Building up your nonprofit’s awareness and knowledge of evaluation, however, can help make the most efficient use of an external evaluator’s time and efforts.

Download this tool we’ve created to assess your organization’s need of external evaluation support.

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