Seasoned evaluators, nonprofit leaders and program staff would likely agree that interest in evaluation has grown. Once upon a time, it was good enough to do noble work – designing and delivering programs to help our community’s most vulnerable was a visible testament to our organization’s worthiness to receive much-needed grants and donations.
The field, however, has become crowded. Canada’s charitable and nonprofit sector has grown to be the second largest in the world; second only to The Netherlands. While we can be proud of living in a country that strives to improve wellbeing for all of its people, it also means greater competition for money, talent and attention. This is where evaluation can help.
Evaluation enables us to not only prove that we’re making a difference but also shows precisely how we’re doing it. We know that funders use their grantee’s evaluation findings to be able understand the impact their dollars are making, but evaluation has benefits for us too. Sharing our evaluation story with funders before or after a grant can improve our credibility and helps to showcase the unique way in which our programs and services are improving lives. Beyond our funders, sharing what we’ve learned through our evaluations helps to build trust across our network – with our staff and volunteers, with our clients, our partners and our community.
So, if evaluation is such a powerful tool, why aren’t we, as nonprofits, doing more of it?
We raised this question during a world café at PLC’s Time Out leadership conference in 2017. Participants discussed the difficulty of getting buy-in for formal evaluation at their organizations and many felt they lacked the resources to do evaluation effectively. Another challenge was evaluation jargon; the multitude of evaluation-specific terms that are often used interchangeably. The group also shared their fears about evaluation – that less than ideal results would reflect negatively on their organization or worse yet that they would be used punitively against staff.
What we learned from this informal consultation stayed with us as we worked over the following months to develop the Peel Region Evaluation Platform. We placed our focus on curating resources that can help nonprofits learn how evaluation can benefit them. The stories, tools and knowledge resources we’ve gathered are intended to help reduce the intimidation factor around evaluation by helping nonprofits build their own internal capacity to understand evaluation. In addition, we’ve deliberately chosen resources that have been used during evaluations in Peel Region to help ensure they are as practical as possible.
Who is PREP for?
This platform is a jumping-off point for staff who are responsible for evaluation at their organization. It’s also a place for those who are interested in learning about evaluation so they can gain fundamental knowledge about the process, methods and approaches. We hope that even experienced evaluators will be able to use PREP to locate a new tool or learn more about how they can use story in their next evaluation.
How to use the site
Visitors new to the site can start by exploring our FAQ page. It addresses some commonly perceived barriers to evaluation. Learning about how each barrier can be addressed may also help us when we want to build interest in evaluation within our organizations.
We’ve also created a Lingo page that defines some of the most well-used terms we see in the field of evaluation. This is intended as a handy reference that will increase our ability to discuss evaluation with confidence.
We’ll take you on a journey
The online library of resources is organized as an evaluation learning journey. The four sections go progressively deeper into the topic of evaluation. Along the way, there are tools, templates and activities to help plan for and deliver an evaluation. These resources can be downloaded and used individually or in the sequence they are presented to help nonprofits build their evaluation knowledge while assembling the pieces required to plan for and deliver a program evaluation.
Exploring the role of data
An integral part of evaluation is data – understanding what information to collect and how to analyze and synthesize it so that it supports our evaluation efforts. We’re sharing resources specifically about data so we can build our data literacy muscles together. This section of the resource area provides some practical guidance on what to collect, how to collect it and what to do with it when we’ve got it.
Using Stories to Showcase Impact
Finding stories about the impact of our work can be a powerful addition to our evaluations. That’s why we’ve included story tools and activities within our Planning for Evaluation resource area. These tools can help us develop a strategic approach to finding and using stories that will support our evaluation goals.
We’re also collecting stories about evaluation! Visit our Stories page to learn about the experiences some nonprofits in Peel have had with evaluation.
Lastly, we’ll share helpful articles and news from the world of evaluation through our blog. We want to build excitement about evaluation and showcase how nonprofits are using it to build more positive futures for their organization and for the people they serve.
As nonprofit organizations, it’s our job to show people the value of what we do and why it matters. For this reason, we hope you will explore our site, use the resources and join us in being a champion for evaluation.
Please spread the word about our evaluation platform and encourage people to join by following our blog!