In last week’s Federal News Radio interview with Kathryn Stack, Advisor for Evidence-Based Innovation at the U.S. Office of Management and Budget, Stack explored how fiscal austerity measures require that we understand which programs are effective and which ones are not. Demonstrating effectiveness with rigorous research and analysis is necessary in order to make decisions about scaling up.
However, even for those organizations and agencies that do not aim to scale up nationally or regionally, a strong and rigorous evaluation plan and protocol are necessary to understand organizational outcomes and necessary improvements.
This point is lost in a world where we are often focused on large government agencies and programs that may have a wider reach. At Creative Research Solutions, we want to make sure that national as well as local and regional programs receive equal attention as we explore the importance of rigorous program evaluation.
So, how do smaller organizations and agencies build evaluation capacity?
- Assess your organization’s needs. Have you had evaluation done within the last 2-3 years that fully meets your organization’s needs? What gaps in data and analysis does your organization currently need to fill? Identify your needs (based on external, grant reporting needs and internal, organization needs) and prioritize them with a feasible timeline.
- Develop a budget for evaluation. What can your organization realistically set aside in its budget for evaluation services? A general guideline is that 5-15% of the program’s budget should be dedicated to evaluation; of course, this will vary across organizations. Include budgeting for evaluation when planning your program if you aim to expand the program, improve implementation, or receive external funding. Speak with an evaluation company such as Creative Research Solutions to obtain an estimate of what your organization’s evaluation needs will cost. Remember that evaluation enables organizations to improve the quality of their programs in the short and long term.
- Work with an evaluation company to scaffold your evaluation project. Work with an evaluator to develop a plan that allows your organization to utilize its capacity now and in the future to assess its services and programming. A clear evaluation plan will be logical, rigorous, and consistent with the structure, time constraints, and goals of your organization.
Would you like to learn more about evaluation plan development? Contact us for a conversation today!