What are we most often forgetting during evaluations?

Are you guilty of pleasing only the funder? Many well-behaving nonprofits know the evaluation process pleases the funder but coalition builder and The Power of Collaborative Solutions author, Tom Wolff, would add that the evaluation process should be serving a more comprehensive purpose so you can leverage the full potential of the collective group.

When you sit down to evaluate your collaboration, consider if you are asking the right questions. We interviewed Wolff about what’s most often overlooked in assessing progress in our CausePlanet Q & A and he shared the following answer:

CausePlanet: You have quite a few web-based tools you offer online and in the book. One in particular is the evaluation process. What’s the most frequently overlooked aspect of assessing progress and celebrating success?

Wolff: Here is what is most overlooked: The most successful and useful evaluations most often occur when the collaborative itself decides to look for answers to critical questions, such as: After having been at this for three years, are we getting anything done? Are we being effective? Is the way that we are set up the most effective? What do all our members think about what we are doing? These kinds of questions can motivate a collaboration’s steering committee and staff to undertake an evaluation process with a high level of interest and beneficial results. When the only interest in doing an evaluation is to keep a funder happy, we get less coalition engagement in the process. Just as the key to success in coalitions is to “keep your eyes on the prize” (make outcomes matter), so it is for evaluation. We need to undertake evaluations that look for changes in programs, practices and policies that are related to the coalition’s vision and goals. When we find them we need to note the changes, make them visible and celebrate them.

If you’re involved in a collaborative, what questions do you regularly ask to keep your colleagues on task toward the outcome?

Save the date: Get more out of your collaborations and save the date for our author interview with Tom Wolff on Thursday, August 22 at 11 a.m. CST.

Register now: Our next author interview will have you taking a fresh and bold look at cash flow management with coauthor Richard Linzer this week on Thursday, July 27 at 11 a.m. CST.

See also:

Community by Peter Block

Do More Than Give by Crutchfield, Kania and Kramer

One response to “What are we most often forgetting during evaluations?”

  1. This is a great reminder that evaluation really does have a core purpose that goes beyond progress and grant reporting.

    It’s easy to lose sight of the need for honest and impactful evaluation when you are caught up in the daily chaos of delivering the mission. While funders often require evaluations, paying more than lip service for your reporting forms will not only lead to better programs, better implementations, but you will also attract more funders with long term commitments.

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