Facing the fear of evaluation

We recently partnered with Evaluation Support Scotland (ESS) to provide free learning and self-evaluation support to our grantholders. In this guest blog post, Martha Lester-Cribb, Senior Evaluation Support Manager shares her top tips for making self-evaluation less scary!

“Evaluation means a lot of extra work!”

“The only reason to evaluate is because funders demand it!”

“Evaluation is always better if it’s done by someone external!”

At Evaluation Support Scotland we know lots of third sector organisations believe these statements. The good news is that we also know that they are myths.

There are simple steps that you can follow to make self-evaluation easier and more useful – and we can help!  Our evaluation pathway illustrates this:

  • Set your outcomes. Outcomes describe the difference you are trying to make by doing the work you do.
  • Define your indicators. These are what you measure to find out whether you are achieving your outcomes.
  • Decide how to collect evidence of your indicators. Pick methods that work for your project.
  • Analyse your evidence. To what extent are you achieving your outcomes?  Do you make more difference in some situations than others?  Why?
  • Use what you have learned – to improve your work, attract new volunteers, reach more service users, keep your board informed, help others in the sector… and report to funders.

The order is important.  Don’t jump straight to designing a questionnaire. If you don’t know what difference you are trying to make and measure you can’t know what to ask or even whether a questionnaire is the right method!  Our mantra is “Outcomes ® Indicators ® Methods”.

We have a range of free resources on our website to help.  You may find our Support Guides a good place to start.  If you are a  Big Lottery Fund grantholder you can also access free training and support.  Just contact your funding officer to find out more.

Before you know it, you’ll be saying:

“Our evaluation is part of our everyday work and takes less time than before.”

“We evaluate our work in order to find out what difference we make and how we can do things even better.  We have valuable learning to share.”

“Now that we’ve thought it through, evaluation is actually quite easy.”

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