Getting the Resources You Need for Evaluation [Guest post by Patrick Germain]

Oct 9th, 2012 / Data Visualization /

Patrick Germain


Hi evaluators!  My name is Patrick Germain and I am the Director of Program Evaluation and Quality Assurance at Project Renewal, and the Founder and Director of Performance Management Professionals, a community of practice based in New York City on issues of Performance Measurement and Management and Evaluation.
Organizations are rife with politics, and politics is often the decisive factor in whether evaluations get used. This is the third post on how I navigate and influence organizational politics to ensure that evaluation is appropriately supported and used in decision making. Check out my earlier posts on Managing Your Evaluation Reputation and Preempting Conflict in Evaluation.

Week Three: Getting the Resources You Need for Evaluation

‘Doing more with less’ seems to be standard operating procedure in the non-profit sector these days. Need for social services continues to rise, and funding continues to be scarce – and in the rush to scrape up whatever funding there is, evaluation is often left in the dust.
So what can internal evaluators do to make sure we get the resources we need? Unfortunately, not a whole lot… But that doesn’t mean we have to throw up our hands.  It is what it is, but that isn’t how it has to be!
Even if you can’t magically double your budget, there are some things you can do to get your needs higher on the organization’s priority list:

  • Understand the priorities of the decision makers – know what they want, and demonstrate how you having additional resources will help achieve that goal.
  • Get lots of different people to ask – A brief illustration: From day one, I knew that our IT capacity was insufficient – not only for me to do my job, but also to solve a myriad of problems throughout the organization.  Every time someone highlighted a relevant problem, I explained how IT solutions might be able to fix it and asked them to help me build pressure for more IT capacity.  I cultivated the understanding that there was huge unmet potential that could be unleashed with more investment in IT.  At a certain point, it became a clearly articulated organizational need that the decision makers had to place higher on the priority list.
  • Don’t make it about yourself – make it about impact and efficiency.  Demonstrate the impact that your work will have on the clients or constituents. Show how it will help the staff and the programs.  Demonstrate that evaluation is an investment, and not just a cost.
  • Get evaluation built into future budgets – It is hard to shift around resources that are already allocated, but it’s a lot easier to get evaluation built into future funding streams.
  • Align with the strategic plan – My organization recently went through a strategic planning process, and it was my one goal in life to make sure evaluation got incorporated into it. (ok, so maybe that’s an exaggeration).  But our strategic plan now has initiatives directly relating to building evaluation capacity.  Evaluation is also integrated into measuring whether we actually achieved what we set out to do in our strategic plan.
  • Ask for it and be ready to justify it – It’s amazing how often people forget this one critical step.  If you don’t make it clear what you need and why, it is doubtful you will get it.  But remember, when you are justifying your request, frame it within the priorities of the decision makers.
  • Leverage other organizational resources – I was surprised at how many of our program directors were excited to participate in evaluative activities.  I asked for volunteers, I asked to borrow staff for a short period, I asked to borrow space and equipment, I asked for help on specific questions or challenges.  If you have done a good job at building your reputation and building allies, you might even get people to agree to it!

It is entirely possible that these ideas won’t work in your context.  Do any of these strategies apply to your position? Are there other ways you have gotten resources?
– Patrick Germain
P.S. Want to learn more? Look for me at the American Evaluation Association conference in Minneapolis, where I will be presenting on some of these issues.

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