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    What are the Trends in Nonprofit Evaluation?

    Updated on: May 11th, 2012
    Data Visualization
    Collage of a bar chart, people, arrow, computer and calendar.

    I’ve been thinking about patterns in nonprofit program evaluation and performance management. Here’s what I’ve noticed:

    • Funders are getting excited about data and evaluation! This means…
    • Funders encourage/require  nonprofits to demonstrate the immediate effects of their work (i.e. detailed output data and short-term outcomes included in monthly and quarterly reports)
    • Funders encourage/require  nonprofits to demonstrate the lasting effects of their work (i.e. more discussions about follow-up evaluations to see whether the program had any sustained effects 3, 6, or 9 months later)
    • Funders are asking nonprofits to provide needs assessment data in their grant applications
    • Funders are requiring nonprofits to use the funder’s own database to track their work (and since nonprofits often receive funding from multiple donors, this means a single program serving 15 youth might be required to record data in 3 or 4 different databases at a time…)
    • Funders want detailed demographic data on the program participants (not just the number of males and females served, but things like their country or birth or whether a teenager has an Individualized Education Plan at school, etc.)
    • Funders value rigorous evaluation methods (However… experimental or quasi-experimental designs may not be appropriate for the program’s developmental stage. Jen Hamilton and Jill Feldman are evaluation gurus on this issue.)
    • Funders are encouraging nonprofits to collect mostly quantitative data (i.e. demographics, outputs, outcomes) but are also very enthusiastic about success stories
    • Nonprofits and funders alike are realizing that evaluation is no small undertaking
    • Funders are offering more and more evaluation capacity building activities, like workshops, webinars, and materials about evaluation
    • Nonprofits are beginning to hire part-time and full-time internal evaluators
    • Internal evaluators in nonprofits are primarily focused on two things: reporting for funders and organizational learning
    • The growing emphasis on evaluation is sometimes the result of an organization’s strategic planning process, wherein nonprofit leaders have to and want to focus on data-driven decisionmaking so that their limited funds can go a long way

    What trends do you see, either in the nonprofit world, or program evaluation, or both? Especially within the past two years?

    More about Ann K. Emery
    Ann K. Emery is a sought-after speaker who is determined to get your data out of spreadsheets and into stakeholders’ hands. Each year, she leads more than 100 workshops, webinars, and keynotes for thousands of people around the globe. Her design consultancy also overhauls graphs, publications, and slideshows with the goal of making technical information easier to understand for non-technical audiences.

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