In case you haven’t noticed, we spend a lot of time focusing on outcomes around here, and with good reason. Times are changing, and funders are looking for proof that their funds are creating the change they were intended to foster. But even if your organization is already on board with an evidence-based approach to program effectiveness evaluation, there is always room for improvement.
Keep reading to find out some techniques your organization can use to make enhance your program effectiveness evaluation and ensure that your funders like what they see.
What is Program Effectiveness Evaluation?
Program effectiveness evaluation is really just another phrase for outcomes analysis. We talk a lot about outcomes, but the truth is that performance measurement doesn’t mean anything without the proper assessment and evaluation.
An outcome is simply a measureable change. However, just because a change occurs among the people or community your organization aims to help, it does not necessarily mean that your organization’s efforts created that outcome.
That’s where program effectiveness evaluation comes in.
If your organization is simply set up to collect evidence, measure data and generate reports, you may be ignoring a crucial step of the process which involves demonstrating how the outcomes relate to the inputs.
This program evaluation process enables your organizations significantly more control over its program design efforts because it can specifically show what efforts are required to generate the desired outputs.
Furthermore, this is extremely attractive to funders, who can support your programs, confident in the knowledge that their investment is truly causing lasting social change.
Tools for Continuous Improvement
If you don’t already have a system in place for measuring results of your programs, you’ll want to read this first for more information about how to get started implementing an evidence based approach. However, for those who are already utilizing an outcomes-based methodology, here are some of our best tips to ensure your program evaluation is effective.
- What is your theory of change? A theory of change shows how a human service organization will accomplish significant and lasting impact on society. Framing your mission as a theory of change can help take your organization’s thinking to a higher level. Instead of speaking in terms of how many meals will be served or how many individuals will be helped to find jobs, a theory of change will demonstrate your organization’s vision for the lasting social impact it hopes to create.
- Do you have a logic model? A logic model shows the steps an organization will take and the resources an organization will apply towards achieving a specific goal. By relating efforts, resources and outcomes, your organization will be able to trace a clear progression towards its ultimate success.
- How is your evaluation designed? Although with modern social services software, printing off reports of your data is quite simple, evaluation design is a much more all-encompassing process. Thinking ahead about how you are going to structure your program effectiveness evaluation and assessing which evaluation model is best for your organization is a critical process, and should receive a significant portion of time and attention.
As you can see, learning to measure outcomes is only a first step in the process towards making sure that your programs are having the impact you desire. However, it is still a crucial step in the process. Without first cultivating an evidence-based approach, your organization cannot move forward to proper program effectiveness evaluation.
Whether your organization is ready for these more in-depth evaluation concepts, we hope we have given you some useful food for thought as you strive to make your programs the best and most impactful that you can.