The Canadian Evaluation Society defines evaluation as “the systematic assessment of the design, implementation or results of an initiative for the purposes of learning or decision-making” (https://evaluationcanada.ca).

Requests for proposals often request non-profit organizations to include an evaluation plan in their application and to allocate a minimum of 5 to 10 percent of the total budget towards evaluation. As a community leader, you may have asked yourself: “Why should my organization spend so much of our precious time and financial resources on outcome evaluation? Would it not be better to apply our limited resources doing front-linework?”

In my experience, non-profit organizations who make an investment in outcome evaluation reap a number of benefits.   The early design and implementation of an evaluation plan always leads to efficient and effective data collection, and accurate reporting over the course of the project. Most importantly, timely and accurate output and outcome data provide essential information that informs discussions leading to program changes, organizational development and capacity building. In addition, having quality data greatly helps with subsequent grant applications. 

In the past 10 years, I have worked with more than a dozen organizations in Southern Alberta.  Most of them are smaller organizations.  Instead of having an evaluator on their payroll, they contract with me to enhance and develop their evaluation capacity, when needed. My involvement often starts with the grant writing process.  Together, we brainstorm about project outcomes, ensuring that they align with their own strategic plan and with the funder’s outcomes. We usually draft a preliminary evaluation strategy even before submitting the application. This strengthens the proposal. Over the course of the project, I help with the finalization and implementation of the evaluation plan, review, analysis, and interpretation of the project outputs and outcomes, and discussions of the findings. My hope is that more non-profit organizations in our region will strengthen their evaluation capacity in the years to come.

If you or your organization would like to learn more about evaluation or about working with an evaluation consultant, talk to Volunteer Lethbridge or consult the directory of Alberta evaluation consultants at the Alberta Chapter of the Canadian Evaluation Society (https://ab.evaluationcanada.ca).

Hélène Wirzba, MD, CE, is a credentialed evaluator based in Lethbridge.  Most of her consulting work takes place in Southern Alberta. 

Cell: 403 330 4524 |Email: Wirzba.Consulting@gmail.com.

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