At the end of an evaluation, you are typically left with a formal evaluation report that contains important data demonstrating the impact of your program, or data that provides insight into the implementation of your program. Having a good evaluation team that gathers reliable data is great, and knowing how to use this data to support your program after an evaluation makes the evaluation even more worthwhile. You can maximize the use of your evaluation results by understanding who to share the results with, and how to effectively do this. Consider creating a dissemination plan with your evaluation team to identify who you want to share the findings with, who is responsible for dissemination, and which modes of sharing the findings is most appropriate for the audience you have in mind.1
Who to Share Evaluation Results With
The people that you will share evaluation results with are dependent on the type of evaluation that you participated in. In the case of formative evaluations for which implementation and thus program development is the focus, your audience or stakeholders will be program staff, volunteers, and the people that your program serves. For program staff and volunteers, having a deeper understanding of program successes and needed improvements can bolster buy-in and greater adherence to effective program practices, and the implementation of new activities that support improvement. Program participants should also have access to evaluation findings because positive results can motivate them to continue participating, champion your program, and enhance its reach due to understanding the evidence of how well the program is serving them in the short-term and long-term.
For outcome evaluations, your audience is going to be different because the information is more focused on program finances and sustainability. This kind of information will be more relevant for audiences such as program funders and policymakers that can influence issues central to your program.
Considerations for Effectively Sharing Evaluation Findings
Sharing your evaluation findings is best done in such a way that ensures a thorough understanding of this information across program stakeholder groups. This can be accomplished in large part by thoughtfully approaching dissemination. First, your evaluator’s responsibility is to provide a well-written evaluation report that is easily understood by you, the client, and those that you plan to share the findings with. Be sure to thoroughly read through the drafts and the final report that you receive from your evaluators, and ask questions of them. This will give you a full understanding of what the report is communicating.2 This way, when you share the findings with your program’s stakeholders, you will be prepared to efficiently answer questions that arise after they have had an opportunity to get acquainted with the findings.
You can further support the accessibility of your program’s evaluation findings by communicating the characteristics of your various stakeholders to your evaluators. Here are some key points to consider as you seek to cater to your audience and increase how much your evaluation findings are used:1
- What are your most effective communication channels with your audience? Consider channel appropriateness and how frequently certain channels are used.
- What action do you want the audience to take based on the information you share? Consider the power they have to make decisions related to your program, and what their sphere of influence is.
- Consider technical expertise and level of comprehension. Language of the reported information should be tailored to suit the audience; opt for plain language.
- What information is most relevant for the audience you want to share the information with?
- What would ensure that the information communicated is culturally appropriate for the intended audience?
- Consider the mode of presentation of the evaluation findings in relation to the preference of the intended audience. These can be communicated through your website, social media, webinars, informal meetings, PowerPoint presentations, a newsletter, an executive summary, etc.
These are important considerations to keep in mind as you progress through the evaluation process and after it has concluded. Disseminating evaluation findings and maximizing their use is certainly a group effort and a worthwhile pursuit for your program’s development.
- Elmi J, Gervin D. CDC Coffee Break: Reporting Evaluation Findings to Ensure Use. https://www.cdc.gov/dhdsp/pubs/docs/cb_february_2013.pdf. CDC website. Accessed on October 4, 2018.
- SAMHSA. Communicating Evaluation Results. https://www.samhsa.gov/capt/applying-strategic-prevention-framework/step5-evaluation/communicating-evaluation-results. Last updated 9/29/15. Accessed on October 4, 2018.