The Importance of Evaluation

November 03, 2017

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UNO Professor Tara Bryan conducted a survey earlier this year on the evaluation practices of metro nonprofits. The survey asked nonprofit leaders to reflect on their practices related to understanding the impact of their work.

As I read through the summary of what nonprofits reported, there were a few things that stood out to me:

  • Most nonprofits feel that evaluation is important, but they don’t feel confident about their evaluation skills.
  • There is a disconnect between the top leaders at nonprofits and their front-line staff. Executive directors were much more likely than program staff to agree with the statement, “any practice or assumption can be challenged, no matter whose it is or how long it has been in effect.”
  • Finally, only 20-30 percent of respondents felt that funders provided resources for evaluation.

At the Iowa West Foundation we think it is critical that nonprofits engage in a process of learning about and improving their programs. The costs associated with staff training and data collection are normal costs that we allow as part of our programmatic grants. This article is a good opportunity to encourage organizations seeking programmatic support from IWF to engage with us if you have questions about which costs can be included. We work hard to make ourselves available and to be transparent with our partners. Selling your program short does not serve your mission or ours.

If you are looking at where to go for help in strengthening your learning process, the STEPS program at UNO has just announced its winter workshops. And, as a final note, I'll leave you with the comic below. Even zombies need evaluation!

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Matthew Henkes, Senior Director of Grants Programs, IWF

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