Why Do Nonprofits Need Program Evaluation?

Nonprofit organizations, in the ongoing effort to achieve their missions, typically undertake program evaluations to serve one or more of these three general purposes:

  • Accountability – measuring the results of programs and accounting for the use of resources
  • Knowledge Generation – creating new understanding of what works and what doesn’t
  • Program Planning or Improvement – supporting clear, well-designed, feasible, and measureable grant-making programs which thereby promote overall organizational effectiveness

Let’s absorb that for a minute.  Evaluation not only allows you to see where your program is but offers tangible room for growth and enhancement.  Who would object to that, right?

A good evaluation will entail a reasonable amount of involvement by the program staff and leadership. If you use an external evaluator, it’s important for the program team to be involved in the selection process. Someone within the organization should also serve as a liaison for the evaluator while the effort continues, to ensure effective awareness and communication. By staying involved, you are better able to understand the evaluation’s findings and implement the final recommendations.

Keep in mind that conducting an evaluation is not about control or discovering wrongdoing – it is not an audit. Evaluation addresses what you as an organization want to know about your program, uncovering what is and isn’t working and why some program elements may be successful while others are not. These findings position your nonprofit for continuous improvement that supports organizational sustainability.