January 3, 2013
By Tom Kelly
Former ABAG Board Member
Vice President for Knowledge, Evaluation & Learning, Hawai'i Community Foundation
For the past 23 years I have been working with nonprofits, government, and foundations to build their capacity to assess and measure performance and results of their work. It had often been a challenge in the past to ”make the case” for the time, money, and effort that evaluation can take but I have seen enormous understanding, capacity, and even demand for evaluation grow over the years. And my observations are supported by recent data from the State of Evaluation 2012 from the Innovation Network.
More nonprofit organizations are not only investing in evaluation but they are using its findings to learn and improve. But they continue to struggle with the resources (technical, time and financial) it takes to do it well and continuously (and, sadly, some still struggle with unsatisfactory evaluations and evaluators – that is a problem the American Evaluation Association is trying to address). And many find that their funders demand data and evaluation without assisting in the funding and building of the skill and infrastructure it takes to do it well. But I remain encouraged because there is no turning back from the demand of nonprofit managers and leaders (and I hope boards) to want to have and use data to grow, adapt, and improve.
So I encourage you to take a look:
State of Evaluation 2012: Evaluation Practice and Capacity in the Nonprofit Sector
Nonprofit organizations and foundations hold great promise for developing new ideas to overcome old problems and for helping people the world over to live healthier, happier lives. But for all that promise, problems are still getting worse. In the face of ever growing need, funders and nonprofits need to use every tool at their disposal to maximize impact. Doing good isn't enough. We need to do ever better.
Evaluation is an often undervalued, overlooked tool for improving outcomes and maximizing impact. It is seen as a nice to have, not as a need to have. In State of Evaluation 2012 the data show that more than two-thirds of organizations do not have the promising capacities and behaviors in place to meaningfully engage in evaluation. And 47% of organizations with annual budgets greater than $5 million did not have at least one full-time employee dedicated to evaluation.
In a sector where results matter, it is incumbent upon us all to evaluate, learn, and improve.
As we celebrate Innovation Network's 20th year of supporting the social sector, we take this opportunity to reflect on the great evaluation strides the sector has made. We are elated that the vast majority of nonprofit organizations (90%) did engage in evaluation. And we are encouraged by the fact that 100% of respondents reported using their evaluation findings.
We are proud to be a member of the social sector, and thankful to have supported so many of your evaluation efforts.
For more information on the State of Evaluation Project (and to download the report), visit http://www.stateofevaluation.org/. For more information on Innovation Network, visit us at http://www.innonet.org/.