The best evaluations are planned before the program starts and not as the program ends. Having a clear evaluation strategy can help you to match the evaluation to your purpose and goals. And knowing what you want to measure in your evaluations, you can be collecting information from your participants from the first application or interview.
Evaluation can only be successful if you have targets to measure against. You need to set clear goals and expectations for your program; otherwise, you will not have a benchmark to measure against or understand what your program was intended to accomplish. For example, your evaluation can target one or more of these parameters:
Are you meeting your program's purpose and goals?
Did your participants meet their goals?
For example, did they:
Do your inputs meet the needs of your program?
What are you doing to support the program and the people who are running it?
What are your measurable outputs (Key Performance Indicators)?
What are the short-term and long-term outcomes of the program?
Remember! No single evaluation needs to meet all these targets and your program doesn’t need to evaluate all these items. Start with the basics for a new program and build in more evaluation as the program is established and grows.
In the beginning, you can focus on the short-term effects and over time look for long-term progress. Allow your program time to hit your targets because it will not immediately get to where you intend.
Evaluation can start with an opening interview and continue past the program end date. There are many options for evaluation, but it can be good to have:
Evaluation requires that you collect, review, and analyze responses and data. While this may sound complicated, you can start with a simple survey and build your analysis over time. Focus on the evaluations will help you build the program that your participants need and meet the needs of your stakeholders or funders.
Data can be divided into two broad types: quantitative and qualitative. Quantitative data is the numbers, statistics, and things you can measure such as:
Quantitative data can be compiled into tables and charts and compared from session to session or year to year. It can be helpful for planning, scheduling, and looking for growth or changing needs.
Qualitative data is the comments, anecdotes, and examples that you can collect such as:
This qualitative data can be grouped into themes and patterns to look for trends in what people are saying. The comments can also provide insight into the “why” of some numbers. For example, comments can show what specific parts of your program make your participants satisfied or unsatisfied with their experiences. It may also provide insight into something that you did not specially ask about.
Program evaluation can be as complicated or as simple as you need it it to be. We have created some Admission, Exit, and Follow Up Surveys for you to use as is or to customize. Use these surveys to check in with your program participants.
We encourage you to use any forms we provide as they are or to customize them for your program needs including adding your logo. If you would like to customize these forms, you can find the full set of editable forms here.
Want to Learn More?
Read our Bootcamp: Evaluating Mentoring Success.
Learn more about creating an evaluation strategy with the Basic Guide to Program Evaluation
Both of these books have sections and examples for program evaluation: