Evaluation helps nonprofit organizations (NPOs) take a reflective look at themselves in an effort to deduce what is working for them, what requires moderate modifications or adjustments and what needs to be completely discontinued in order to strengthen their effectiveness. For instance, gender advocacy organizations rely on evaluation to:
- Prove or strengthen their transparency and accountability to donors as well as to project beneficiaries. Outcome evaluations, for example, help these NPOs to account for the use of donor funds by periodically measuring the results of their programs. This is very important because projects will fail if they are not evaluated to ensure accountability in their implementation. Programs dedicated to reducing gender-based violence, especially domestic violence, can use various evaluation methods to track and comparatively analyze statistics of cases reported before and during the project to determine how and if such projects are moving in the direction of predetermined goals.
- As referenced earlier, evaluation fosters continuous learning and improvement for gender advocacy NPOs. Each evaluation report presents them with a fresh opportunity to make new discoveries of trends and patterns based upon which they are able to deduce what works, what does not and are able to adjust accordingly. In a nutshell, it helps them to learn from experience.
- Also, evaluation fosters overall organizational effectiveness. For example, program evaluation will enable gender advocacy organizations to understand which community outreach strategy produces the most results in terms of helping vulnerable women to understand their rights, determine when their rights have been trampled upon and know what approaches to take to seek help. It helps organizations make informed, feasible program decisions and plan strategically for improved, sustained program results.
However, these organizations cannot rely on evaluation for the following:
- Solving all program-related issues. Evaluation alone cannot provide all the answers to program issues. Depending on the nature and focus of the evaluation, certain key issues may be ignored by the process.
- Guaranteeing consistent interpretation of similar data. Different evaluators may interpret findings differently.
- Evaluation by itself cannot determine consistent donor support to projects. A shift in donors’ priorities or interests, which may have serious funding implications, must be expected at any time, regardless of an NPO’s ability to prove to grantors that each funding requirement is being met. This is why it is important for an NPO to continuously focus on expanding its revenue streams by attracting and retaining new funders.
The bottom line is that though evaluation cannot solve all program problems, it helps organizations to make strategic decisions or smart choices about program delivery that are in line with mission fulfillment. Its primary objective is to arm planners with new tools with which they can make informed decisions for overall program and organizational advancement. It is a vital tool that donors use to make funding decisions.