Data geeks with people skills

How Much Should My Program Evaluation Cost? (FAQ)

money-300x200“How much is it going to cost?”

As a consultant, I am often asked this question by organizations that need my services. It’s a reasonable inquiry, undoubtedly, and something that service professionals of any type face frequently. Sometimes the answer is simple, for an hour of time here or a day of training there. In more complex situations, it’s important to understand the circumstances thoroughly to quote an accurate and reasonable price.

The challenge is that most organizations build their budgets long before an evaluator comes onto the scene. So here’s a good rule of thumb to use as you plan ahead. The cost of a program evaluation will realistically depend on several variables, but a good gauge is to estimate 10-15% of the total program costs.

The cost can certainly be less if you have a great data collection system in place, or you require only a process evaluation, or you’d like to take baby steps to create an evaluation strategy over a multi-year period. However, the costs may increase if you can’t rely on existing, publicly available data and must create an original data collection system. It can also increase when it’s necessary to collect data from multiple sources and in multiple formats, or when the program being evaluated is more complex overall. The cost of an evaluation might also increase if the nature of the data collection requires a higher level of scientific rigor.

Other factors that can influence the cost of an evaluation include:
• Number of program evaluation questions or issues to be addressed
• Number of program implementation sites
• Customization requirements
• Labor required for data collection, analysis, and reporting
• Need for grantee capacity building to support evaluation tasks

In addition, there are several payment options that evaluators may make available, such as a periodic payment schedule, a flat fee-for-service, or monthly billing based upon hours worked. Be sure to discuss your payment preferences before hiring your evaluator.

Most importantly, plan ahead to proactively budget for evaluation activities that address your organization’s existing needs and anticipate additional demands moving forward. This step will allow you to hit the ground running when it’s time to address key evaluation questions for your programs.

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