Develop Your Evaluation Plan
Evaluation is the process of determining the worth, merit and effectiveness of a program or product based on relevant standards typically set by the organization. While evaluation is often thought of as the last step, it should be considered throughout the planning process and continue through all stages of program implementation and refinement. The following information will provide more detail about each of these steps and highlight that, with appropriate planning and foresight, no part of the process needs to be difficult.
As you create your evaluation plan think about the steps you will need to take to address the need. You may need to add to and pare down your activities as needed once the picture becomes clearer. Remember to think about what success will look like for you and your community. How will you know that you have achieved your goals? With that in mind, create your plan, implement your program and measure your success as you conduct your work. By including evaluation at the onset of your program and clearly identifying what success will look like you are likely to impact your community positively.
Begin to develop your evaluation plan in the onset of the planning stages of your program. While you may not be able to fill in every part of the plan at the very beginning, by thinking about your goals and objectives and the other aspect s of the evaluation plan, you will begin to see what other information you will need to clearly plan your program.
1. Complete your Evaluation Plan Template
- Your evaluation plan can guide your program or project by tracking the short-term and long-term objectives, resources needed and activities necessary to make the project a success.
- Familiarize yourself with Evaluation terms & definitions.
- Create and define your program goals and objectives and list them in your evaluation plan.
- Stay focused intensely on your mission. It is important that the goals and objectives you set for the program fit fully within your organizational mission. While the temptation may be there to broaden your programs' scope if an opportunity arises, think through it carefully. This can be the quickest route to failure, especially if resources are limited.
- Use the results of your needs assessment to guide the development of your goals and objectives. This will help you ensure that the program fits the overarching culture and philosophy of your target population. Be wary of assuming what your community needs. This can lead to programs that are not supported by the community.
- Identify the activities that you will undertake to address the needs in your community. From the evidence base you have developed, determine what is working and what is not. List your activities in the appropriate section of your evaluation plan. You can decide whether your list will be broad or very specific, but you will want to consider how each activity will impact another. Be sure to only complete those activities that are necessary to achieve your goals and objectives.
- Make sure your objectives are SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely.
- Think about the resources you will need to complete your objectives. If you organization cannot do it all alone determine if it is appropriate to work with others on this program and then identify appropriate partners. Resist the temptation to go beyond your area of expertise unless you have the organizational competence, staff and funding to do it successfully.
- Complete the resources section of your evaluation plan ensuring that you have thought about what people, technological and financial resources will be needed to meet your objectives. Your organizational chart should help with this process.
- Identify the outputs, tangible deliverables, and assign those outputs timelines in which they will be accomplished. This will help to keep you and those working with you to stay on task. If you plan on holding a meeting and you want to conduct a survey after the meeting, when will you need to have this survey created and reviewed with time to get it stuffed in meeting packets? When will you need to have a final report including the analysis of the report to provide your grantor or to make decisions to refine your program? By laying out your activities and output in your evaluation plan, you can think about how all of your actions will come together.
- Consider partnering with other organizations to recruit participants, to market your program or to conduct the actual program. If you organization cannot do it all alone determine if it is appropriate to work with others on this program and then identify appropriate partners. Review the Conducting Community Outreach section for more information on this topic.
- You may need to apply for grant funding or raise additional funds for a program. Avoid seeking money that is outside of your organizational mission or vision. The temptations will be there but only seek funds that are directly tied to your mission.
2. Assess any barriers and challenges that may arise. Think about the types of issues that could arise and how you might cope with them.
- Carefully consider when and where you will offer your program. Timing of programs, both the time of day and year can influence your program's success. For example, if you are developing a program for adolescents and young adults, you will want to work around school and work schedules. Additionally, practical issues such as transportation, access to the physical location, daycare, and access to food are other barriers that can greatly impact your program.
- Consider the needs of your community when planning your work. How will you ensure that the literacy level and the cultural competency of any materials you develop will be appropriate for your community?
- Assess your financial and resource limitations, to ensure you can support the program as it is designed. For example, if your program is held during dinner hours, make sure you have the funds to offer food to the participants. If you cannot do this, you may want to assess why you are holding an event during that time and evaluate a need to change this.
- Develop a Project Budget Template specifically for the program or project you are proposing to implement.
3. Understand what Sample Metrics are and how they are part of your evaluation plan. Develop appropriate metrics based on your plan.
- Consider the type of evaluation you want to conduct. You can measure the process, the outcome or both.
- A process evaluation assesses if your program was delivered as intended. It does not assess how successful the program was. This is often helpful when you think you might want to follow the same steps again later so that you can learn from your successes and challenges.
- An outcome evaluation (or impact evaluation) looks at the extent to which your program produced the desired outcomes. When you compare your program to another similar program, this allows you to measure your impact.
- Both may be used alone or in conjunction with each other.
- Determine the appropriate tool to measure success
- When determining what tools you will use, you should think about what it would look like if you were to successfully address the need you have targeted. For example, what information would you need to have in order to know that you have addressed the need?
- Is it satisfaction with your program?
- Is it healthier eating habits?
- Is it better communication between patient and provider?
- While it is not always possible to measure everything, think about what measures are the most important and then select the appropriate tools to measure those.
- Surveys are a great tool to consider if you want to gather a good deal of information quickly from a specific set of individuals.
- Think about the information that you want to gather and how you will use it and if this can occur through a survey. Also think about who will be responsible for creating the survey, monitoring responses and analyzing the data.
- When designing a survey or other questionnaire it is important that your questions are very specific and that the way they are phrased will yield the information you are seeking. Review the Survey Tips and Frequently Used Survey Questions for help with this.
- If you do not think a survey is best, you can use other tools such as case studies, tracking web hits, tabulating media impressions, monitoring legislation or conducting a focus group.
- If available, you can also use existing standardized assessments and questions to gain answers to the questions you are asking.
3. Develop a Logic Model Template that can serve as an easy way to communicate and share your evaluation plan. While a logic model is not always necessary, it is another tool that can be helpful. A logic model uses a chart to show the resources needed, the activities that take place, and the benefits or changes that result from your program. Logic models offer a one page view of the major elements of your evaluation plan.
4. Worksheets and Samples
- Evaluation Plan Template
- Evaluation Definitions
- Project Budget Template
- Sample Metrics
- Survey Tips
- Frequently Used Survey Questions
- Logic Model Template