Interested in how your organization’s evaluation practices compare to your peers? The Innovation Network just published the first-ever State of Evaluation report at www.stateofevaluation.org. The State of Evaluation 2010 includes findings from a survey of over 1,000 US nonprofits on their evaluation practices — i.e., metrics and measurements, indicators and impact, efficiency and effectiveness. The survey will be repeated every two years.
The good news is that most organizations (85%) have evaluated their work in some way in the last year. Some interesting findings:
- Quantitative evaluation is used more often than qualitative -- for example, 76% of medium-sized organizations use statistics versus 24% who use focus groups.
- Most organizations (98%) use their evaluation findings -- 79% to plan/revise programs, 74% to report to funders, 70% in funding proposals, but only 47% to make staffing or resource allocation decisions.
- Respondents named funders (36%) seven times more than clients (5%) as the highest priority audience for evaluation.
- Even so, evaluation is the second lowest organizational priority (only more important than research).
These stats also point out areas of opportunity. Evaluation still appears to be driven by funder requirements, with a focus on numbers. What if, in addition to meeting our grant reporting requirements and tracking our outcome measures (both important and necessary), we used evaluation to deepen how we understand our organization's ecosystem? What if evaluation could also support its ongoing health?
What if we -- 1) found our bright spots and multiplied them, 2) learned what creates a WOW! experience for our clients and put it into practice, and 3) shared our progress with our community of stakeholders? What if we allocated resources specifically for these activities? I predict we might see organizations that are even more in tune with their client base, their community, and their own sustainability.
One final word, if you are inspired to take your evaluation efforts to a new level -- insufficient support from leadership is not a significant barrier to evaluation. The report notes that only 12% of respondents felt it was a significant challenge versus 71% who felt limited staff time was a challenge. More good news for those who want to evaluate and possibly innovate.
To access the report click here.