1. Section Introduction
So, we’ve completed our evaluation activities and analyzed our data – now what?
The next and final steps involve sharing what we’ve learned and using evaluation to further organizational learning. The following sections provide tips on writing a formal evaluation report and planning for how we want our evaluation results to be used. We then look at developing a communications strategy to share our results. Next are tools to help us build our organization’s ECB or Evaluation Capacity Building functions. These resources help us to identify the components of ECB and provide strategies we can consider when developing an approach that suits our organizational goals, objectives and resources. After all, our organizational capacity to do evaluation effectively is an important part of what we gain when we first begin program evaluation. Lastly, we’ll provide some tips for building evaluation into the program planning cycle so that we can make regular use of evaluation data to drive programmatic and organizational improvements.
2. Writing an Evaluation Report
Let the report writing begin!
Once data analysis has been completed, it’s time to craft the final report. Reporting can consist of brief memos, visual presentations or oral reports. The most common, however, is the formal evaluation report. A strong report will include the following:
- Description of the program being evaluated
- Clear statement about the evaluation questions and the purpose of the evaluation
- Description of the data collection methods used
- Summary of key findings (including tables, graphs, vignettes, quotes, etc.)
- Discussion or explanation of the meaning and importance of key findings
- Suggested Action Steps
- Next Steps (for the program and the evaluation)
- Issues for Further Consideration (loose ends)
A report outline done in advance will help to lay out the report preparation process. If commissioning an evaluation report, ask to see a report outline in advance. If creating the report directly, the following document will help to guide the process.
3. Ensuring Evaluation Findings are Used
Once the report is prepared, laying the groundwork for sharing the results is an important aspect of evaluation. How the results will be shared is connected to the original purpose of the evaluation. Once again, considering the stakeholders and intended audiences for our evaluation results will be a key part of how we will share them. The resources below will help to identify ways to share our findings that are uniquely suited to our program and organizational needs.
4. Sharing Results
Just because our evaluation results are published doesn’t mean they’ll reach our desired audience and have the impact we intend. This is why is a well laid-out plan for communication and dissemination of our evaluation results should be a part the overall evaluation plan. Communicating evaluation results involves sharing information in ways that make it understandable and useful to stakeholders. Successful communication is key to evaluation results being used.
Publicly sharing evaluation results can be tricky, especially if parts of the evaluation are considered proprietary and confidential. However, to the best extent possible, communication of results should be included as an integral part of evaluation reporting, particularly since publicizing results could lead to increased funding and additional program support.
The resources below take us step by step through the process of developing and implementing a communication plan.
5. Building Organization Capacity
Evaluation capacity building (ECB) involves the design and implementation of teaching and learning strategies to help individuals, groups, and organizations, learn about what constitutes effective, useful, and professional evaluation practice. The ultimate goal of evaluation capacity building is sustainable evaluation practice – where members continuously ask questions that matter, collect, analyze, and interpret data, and use evaluation findings for decision-making and action.
Organizational learning is incredibly important. Organizations that are adept at learning from mistakes and adapting to new challenges are more likely to be successful, and more likely to make significant progress toward mission-related outcomes. In general, ECB can be used to:
Improve the knowledge and skills of individuals – Staff members need to have an understanding of evaluation, and the confidence to apply basic evaluation approaches and methods to their work. Everyone does not need to be an expert, but everyone does need to have a basic support for and understanding of evaluation.
Strengthen organizational evaluation approaches – Within an organization, there have to be effective mechanisms to support evaluation. Established systems and processes support staff to identify, collect, and use evaluative information.
We’ve compiled resources here that explain the purpose of evaluation capacity across the dimensions of knowledge, skills, and beliefs as well as a checklist that can help to guide the formulation of our ECB strategy. We also share an in-depth look at ten strategies to build ECB with examples and suggestions for implementation.
6. Building Evaluation into Program Planning
When we build evaluation into the planning of programs, we bolster our internal organizational strength and our external authority and authenticity. It shows that we have a genuine interest in knowing what works with our programs and why it works. It also shows that we’re serious about ensuring our program impacts and operations are the best that they can be. It signals we’re prepared to explore new ways of delivering and organizing our services if evidence guides us in a new direction.
Download our tip sheet that will help to position evaluation activities within the program planning cycle.
- Excellence for Child and Youth – Program Evaluation Toolkit
- Youth Research and Evaluation Exchange – Knowledge Mobilization Planning Form
- Youth Research and Evaluation Exchange – YouthREX Share Evaluation Findings
- Western Michigan University – Organization Eval Capacity
- Evaluative Thinking – Evaluative Thinking Bulletin 6
- CDC – Developing and Effective Evaluation Report
- Pell Institute – Develop a Communications Plan
- CDC – Evaluation Reporting Guide