Resources for Nonprofit Program Evaluation
June 16, 2014 12:42 PM   Subscribe

What resources are available for nonprofit program evaluation? If you have been involved in this kind of work, what resources have been particularly useful to you?

I'm a graduate student starting a new assistantship in a field that is still quite new to me. Over the next year I will be working with a number of nonprofits as they gear up for evaluations of their programs. These evaluations will all be internal. There is a desire for the evaluations be formative, but it is also quite clear that reporting to funders is driving much of this. The nonprofits who have reached out for help have expressed concerns specifically about logic models and outcomes assessment/reporting.

My first step is to put together a list of resources that are available. This will range from organizations and associations, to journals and specific articles, to evaluation tools.

My background, if it helps: I’m studying educational research methodology, which means that my course work takes me through a fair bit of program evaluation theory and applied work. However, most of this experience is limited to the classroom, and clients/projects have been in education. I have very little experience with the nonprofit sector.

Where should I start? If you have been involved in this kind of work, what resources have been particularly useful to you?

Some resources that are already on my radar:
Urban Institute
Kellogg Foundation
Foundation Center

posted by kortez to Work & Money (6 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Check out the Community Tool Box.
posted by entropone at 12:55 PM on June 16, 2014

This is a burgeoning field right now that is still I think largely in the coalescing phase. You're totally correct that program evaluation has largely been driven by grant funding, as measurable impact and reporting results is becoming an increasingly critical part of receiving grant funding.

I would start by looking for Program Evaluation associations. For example, the big one here in Oregon is OPEN. They have tools and do trainings on how to design and implement evaluations. We also have Education Northwest here in Portland that does a lot of this work.

Here's some books recommended by the GPA that you might find useful.

Her's some more resources from the NPRCand the NCNP.

The big thing I try to point out to NPOs is that programs need evaluation models built into them. The NPOs I've worked with in doing program evaluations are always freaking out about logic models like they are some scary and abstract thing. I've always stressed that the point of these is that funders want you to be able to design your program from the start with objectives that will meet your specific goals for the program - the logic model is just a nice little model to help organize the flow from goals to activities to outcomes to metrics. It's kind of a buzzword in grant making lately, but it's a pretty useful idea.
posted by Lutoslawski at 1:30 PM on June 16, 2014

What you want varies by field, but MITx just ran a great online course on impact assessment. They also reference logical framework analysis which many of the big government donors use, though this approach does have detractors.
posted by wingless_angel at 1:40 PM on June 16, 2014 [2 favorites]

The Western Michigan University Evaluation Center was recommended to me as a top-tier evaluation group. Their website has some checklist how-tos for evaluations, and they also host a weekly lunch (during the school year) which they put on Vimeo. Maybe this will be helpful!
posted by rebent at 11:07 AM on June 17, 2014 [2 favorites]

Other resources you might find useful are the WKKF Evaluation Handbook and the WKKF Logic Model Development Guide
posted by rebent at 11:12 AM on June 17, 2014

+1-ing Community Tool Box. I'm in an evaluation role at a large nonprofit and that's one of my go-to resources. The Western Michigan U. checklists that rebent posted are great starting points too.

For folks who are completely new to evaluative approaches, these beginner guides are a good resource.

FSG has lots of really informative webcasts and resources, particularly for collective impact work (projects where multiple organizations are convening).

I've learned lots from the American Evaluation Association's evaluation tips.

PerformWell is a good starting point for developing assessments and identifying outcome metrics.

A lot of foundations and federal grantmaking agencies have their own evaluation resources, which can help address some of those grant-specific expectations that you mention.
posted by torridly at 8:07 AM on June 18, 2014

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