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Nonprofit Tips & Hints: Evaluation Methods, Part II

Tahoe Truckee Community Foundation
Published on October 22, 2015

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The Evaluation Paradigm.

Part I of this series covered the importance of strategic evaluation. You can find it on

When a nonprofit seeks to integrate evaluation into their programs, it can feel overwhelming.  Not only are there numerous evaluation methods and theories, but some approaches can require both a monetary and time investment.  If your nonprofit wants to start evaluating its programs in order to determine their effectiveness and improve impact, start simple.

This basic evaluation paradigm is an opportunity to begin to create evaluation parameters around your programs.  Often, metrics already exist that can be honed and developed to measure your services.

  1. Who are you serving? Define your clients (i.e. children, artists, single parents, the elderly, Veterans), and how you quantify them (i.e. walk-ins, event attendance, service referral).
  1. What services did clients receive? The anticipated service may be different from the actual service provided, track both (i.e. minutes spent with client, food/clothes/goods provided, job/language/family training, service referral).
  1. From Whom? Track who provided the service (staff, volunteer, clinician, consultant), the date, and length of service time, even for small operations.
  1. At what cost? What does it cost (dollars, time, travel, in-kind donations) to provide this service? Account for every staff minute and dollar.
  1. What is the outcome? How do you measure success (i.e. did attendance numbers go up at musical events, did more kids graduate high school, have literacy levels improved)? A program’s intrinsic value can be qualitatively measured through client and provider surveys (i.e. rate your quality of life, do you feel more motivated?).
  1. Tell the story. Your service has an intrinsic value that data cannot communicate alone. Use this data and tell the story of your nonprofit’s mission, donors, volunteers, staff, and clients. Share the emotions and raw truth of your cause, especially with funders whose missions align with your own.