In the spring and early summer this year I connected with several non-profits across Ontario to explore their practices and challenges around evaluation. People told me, without hesitation, that evaluation is very important to the success of their program. And people told me, again without hesitation, that time to do evaluation was a huge challenge.
Through the conversations I did hear some great tips on how to save time doing evaluation. Some organizations were using local university or college students to help with pieces of information gathering and data analysis. Others were using volunteers (Board members, for example) to lighten their evaluation load.
What are some time-saving tips around creating, implementing and analyzing evaluation? Have you used any of the approaches that I just mentioned? If so, was it a positive experience?
I have wondered about/done a couple of things to make evaluation a bit more manageable. I have worked in collaboration with other like-purpose organizations to develop evaluation tools (more hands make lighter work). I have also "borrowed" other organization's evaluation tools - with their permission, of course - and used those tools to make my own (easier to tweak than to create from scratch).
When it comes to a task that I think might require external evaluation, I've toyed around with the idea of working with another organization in a "you scratch my back; I'll scratch yours). So say I wanted to evaluate my Board of Directors. It would be a bit uncomfortable to do that myself, but maybe I could work with another local organization that also wants to do the same sort of evaluation. A staff person from that organization could conduct an evaluation of my Board and I could conduct an evaluation of their Board.
Just a few thoughts.
I think that planning can be a time saver. Having a good sense of what you will be doing throughout the year and knowing what should be evaluated will be helpful. And then schedule the evaluation pieces where needed - I refer to it as marking it on my calendar in ink - that way it can't be erased or moved.
It seems simple but we know it can be difficult to stick to a schedule.