Evaluation allows organisations to assess how and if they are achieving their goals. It involves collecting and analysing information about activities, characteristics, and outcomes.
Evaluations should be conducted regularly to:
- continuously improve the organisation's work
- ensure programs and services meet the expectations and objectives set for them, so that changes can be made if needed
- be accountable to the community and the people served by the organisation
- meet the requirements of funding agencies
- provide feedback to the staff and volunteers who perform the work of the organisation.
There are also continuous improvement frameworks that you can use to self-assess as well as providers who can conduct evaluations on your behalf:
- Volunteering Australia – National Standards
- Department of Human Services – Australian Service Excellence Standards.
There are six main steps to follow in an evaluation process.
1. Decide on the purpose of the evaluation
- What do you want to know and why?
- How will you use the results of the evaluation?
2. Set up an evaluation structure
- evaluation committee
- outside evaluator
- combination of options.
3. Prepare the evaluation design
- What is the focus of the evaluation?
- What constitutes success and degrees of success in the program or organisation that is being evaluated?
- What external factors affect the success of the program or organisation?
- What information is needed to carry out the evaluation?
- What are the appropriate tools to gather the information needed?
4. Gather information
- reviewing documents and databases
- public surveys
- media scans - monitoring media coverage
- focus groups.
Sources of information frequently include:
- board members
- the community.
5. Analyse information
It's often helpful to review and analyse information during the evaluation process, and not simply at the end. This can identify and correct gaps or problems, and begin to identify trends and possible conclusions.
No final conclusions should be drawn until all information is gathered and analysed.
6. Action and implementation
After concluding the analysis, decisions can then be made about what steps to take in light of the evaluation.