Why Evaluate your Programs? By Dianne Macfarlane

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Many public funders and private donors are now requiring non-profit organizations to provide evidence that the programs they offer are benefitting their clients. This evidence goes beyond the traditional measures such as the number of clients served and client satisfaction data.

When MAS clients ask for help in deciding how to develop a process for collecting such evidence, we recommend an approach called Outcomes-Based Program Evaluation. It is a method for both planning new programs, and monitoring and improving current program performance and client outcomes.

not-for-profit program evaluation

Evaluating your programs with this approach does not require research expertise, and is feasible for most small and medium-sized non-profits. The core method of OBPE is the Logic Model, which provides a detailed and logical description of a program including:

  • Its primary purpose/objective
  • The resources used, human and financial
  • The activities undertaken
  • The outputs produced (for example, the number of meals or number of clients)
  • The intended client outcomes

We have discovered that for most agencies the two most common challenges in populating the Logic Model are articulating both the Purpose of the program and its Outcomes. A Purpose statement describes what the program does, who it serves and what the intended client outcomes are. Outcomes are the benefits your clients receive by participating in the program.

Once the Logic Model is completed, the next step is to decide how you will measure those outcomes-that is, what tells you the outcome has happened. Having decided on the measure, you decide where you will find that data and how you will collect it. Again, the collection of this data is well within the skills of most organizations.

MAS can help you with training staff to undertake this type of program evaluation.

About Dianne Mcfarlane

Dianne is MAS consultant in the Governance, Strategic Planning and Human Resources practices.

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