AEA365 | A Tip-a-Day by and for Evaluators

TAG | contracts

My name is Jennifer Dewey, and I am a Senior Director with Walter R. McDonald and Associates, Inc. (WRMA). Over the years, I have worked for organizations that receive a substantial amount of business in health and human services from Federal, state, and local-level entities. A key method to obtaining this work is partnering with subcontractors and consultants to respond to requests for proposals, or RFPs.

“Prime” responders (those who will take 51% or more of the work) look to subcontractors (an organization) and independent consultants (an individual) to enhance their bids. Subcontractors and consultants do this by providing content or technical knowledge that the prime doesn’t have enough of, or doesn’t have at all. For example, a history of working with certain populations (e.g. military and veterans, indigenous peoples) or specialized statistical expertise (e.g., social network analysis). Subcontractors and consultants may enhance a bid by being based in one or more locations where the project will take place, bringing their knowledge of the local government, population(s), and community structure to the work.

Many of these partnerships are generated through networking, where a prime representative knows an independent consultant or staff member at a potential subcontractor that can bring the needed knowledge and skills to an RFP response.

Rad Resource: Familiarize yourself with available Federal contract vehicles, such as AHRQ (www.ahrq.gov), CDC (www.cdc.gov), GSA MOBIS (www.gsa.gov), HHS PSC (www.ngsservices.com/program_support_center.html) HRSA (www.hrsa.gov), SAMHSA (www.samhsa.gov), and others to learn about past and future contracts. Consulting organizations often list their contract vehicles on their website.

Hot Tip: Make yourself and/or your organization easy to find through LinkedIn profiles with direct contact information, and websites with detailed descriptions of services, projects, and staff member qualifications.

Once you establish a partnership, prove your worth by delivering high-quality, timely work as part of the RFP process. Brainstorming and generating ideas about the scope of work, while challenging in itself, is easy compared to the business of putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard).

Hot Tip: Leverage your unique subject matter expertise and technical knowledge by being a thinking partner with the prime, helping them understand and work through the challenges implicit in the project. As requested, follow up with well-written tasks that address the RFP’s evaluation criteria within the allotted page count.

Hot Tip: Cement your value by providing professional bios, resumes, project examples, and organizational capacity statements per the prime’s timeline and in the requested format.

Primes view subcontractor and independent consultant contributions to the RFP process as a litmus test for contract performance. Whether the bid is won or lost, high performance will increase your opportunities for future work.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Independent Consulting TIG Week with our colleagues in the IC AEA Topical Interest Group. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from our IC TIG members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

My name is Melanie Hwalek and I am the founder and CEO of SPEC Associates, a nonprofit organization with a national reach based in downtown Detroit, Michigan. I have been practicing the art of program evaluation for about 30 years. Our clients range from tiny grassroots organizations to major national nonprofits and foundations.

2014 Update: I’ve now been practicing evaluation for MORE than 30 years (hard to believe)!

Hot Tip: Get it in writing. Whenever you are about to engage in work, whether it be for a small nonprofit agency or a major national foundation, make sure that your work agreement is in writing. Assume nothing. The more specific you can be regarding the work you or your evaluation company will do – and regarding what you are expecting your client to do – the better off both of you will be in the long run.

Rad Resource: At SPEC Associates we generate a contract with every client for whom we undertake work. The contract contains all of the elements that we think should be discussed, clarified and agreed to by the evaluator and the client prior to starting the work. Issues like: How much will we get paid? Who owns the instruments, data and/or reports? How do we terminate a relationship that isn’t working? How do we negotiate needed changes that become apparent as the work evolves? Who is the person in each organization who has the authority to sign off on major decisions? What, exactly, will each organization be responsible for doing? We’ve shared the contract template that SPEC Associates uses in AEA’s eLibrary at http://bit.ly/speccontracttemplate

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Best of aea365 week. The contributions all this week are reposts of great aea365 blogs from our earlier years. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org . aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

Hello, I’m Norma Martinez-Rubin, an independent program evaluator, public health practitioner, and occasional trainer and lecturer. This post is about working solo vs. on subcontracts.

Lessons Learned: As an independent consultant, working solo presents challenging opportunities to apply experiences and formal training that meet client expectations. Doing so affords you additional experience for even greater or more complex future projects, augments your skills and practice tools, and further strengthens the independent streak needed to build a work portfolio composed of sample work representing the successful relationships you and your clients have developed and fostered. Your portfolio validates expertise, distinctiveness, and sense of value about projects of your choice. Project schedules involve fewer parties in the work; you invoice for services directly, and get compensated in amounts that include your administrative, overhead, and consulting fees.

As the primary consultant to a client, your name, image, and reputation are at stake. You are accountable to your client and yourself with regard to project designs, communications, and completed tasks. These considerations are relevant to subcontract work with some variations.

Working on subcontracts requires greater coordination, communication, and occasional compromise about the processes related to submission of a work project proposal, completion of specific deliverables, and presentation of work that may be subsumed by another’s corporate image or reputation. It’s best to decide in advance of commencing a subcontractor relationship, what you consider proprietary, whether you will use your own templates or designs for evaluation processes and reports, and how your work will enhance the value of the deliverables to be met in concert with the primary contractor. Inherent in subcontracted work is the greater amount of time needed for a coordinated response to conditions that develop and may be unforeseen —either by the primary contractor or the client — after project initiation. When you are not the primary contact to the client, you’ll rely on the primary contractor’s communication skills, availability, and affability to best represent their and your interests.

Hot Tips: Subcontract when you and the primary contractor have agreed to work scope, timelines, and individual responsibilities for developing, proofing, and finalizing deliverables. Discuss each other’s understanding of client expectations. Be clear of your expectations of work product format(s), deadlines that precede final products to the client, and service payment amounts.

Maintain written agreements, outline agreed-upon tasks in a letter of agreement or mini-contract.

Working solo or as a subcontractor calls for trusting yourself and others. Acknowledge how well you can do so, in what instances, and proceed accordingly.

Rad Resource: For tax filing purposes in the U.S., acquaint yourself with tax form 1099-MISC applicable to independent consultants/subcontractors.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating IC TIG Week with our colleagues in the Independent Consulting Topical Interest Group. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from our IC TIG members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

 

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My name is Mimi Doll, the owner of Candeo Consulting, Inc., an independent consulting firm that builds organizations’ capacity to create meaningful change in the communities they serve. Sometimes we can prevent scope creep with good planning, other times no matter how good our preparation is, clients either don’t have a clear sense of what they want or simply change their minds.

Hot Tip:

  • Always Develop a Scope of Services and Contract. Developing a detailed scope of services, including project tasks, work hours, pricing, timeline, roles and responsibilities, makes clear to the client what services and deliverables you plan to provide, and those you don’t.  Your scope serves as a communication tool about how you will proceed with the project and provides your client an opportunity to react and clarify their expectations about the work.  Similarly your contract lays out a legally enforceable agreement about how you and your client will conduct business together, including key issues such as services offered, payment terms, data ownership, contract termination and renewability.  Should you reach that “worst case” scenario when you and your client reach an impasse, your contract makes clear the parameters to which you’ve agreed.

Rad Resource: For more information about contracts and small business-related legal issues, see Nolo’s Online Legal Forms.

Hot Tip:

  • Hone Those Communication Skills.Sometimes there are client-consultant disagreements about how a project should proceed, even after the contract has been signed.  These moments call for strong communication skills: listen actively to your client, state your positions clearly, manage strong emotions (yours/your client’s) and maintain professionalism.  Remember, conflicts often arise from differing perception of a situation rather than objective facts; it’s important to be able to take the client’s perspective.  Make your goal about coming to a mutual agreement.

Rad Resource: see HelpGuide.org’s conflict resolution skills.

Hot Tip:

  • Be Clear on Your Own Standards. When the client’s expectations about the project change between start and finish of the work, it’s important to be clear about your own standards by writing them down.   Consider the following:
  • Logistics & Scope Changes: How does this impact your project’s time frame, budget and staffing?  Where can you be flexible and where can you not?  Do alterations erase company profits; place too great a burden on your time/staffing capacity?
  • Work Quality/Integrity & Scope Changes: Do requested alterations reduce the quality or rigor of data collection, create conflicts of interest, and lessen the impact of your work?  In some cases these decisions are clearly outlined by professional standards, while other times we must develop our own professional standards.

Rad Resource: See AEA Guiding Principles for Evaluators.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating the Chicagoland (CEA) Evaluation Association Affiliate Week with our colleagues in the CEA AEA Affiliate. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from our CEA members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.


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I’m Susan Kistler, the American Evaluation Association’s Executive Director. Today, I thought I’d write about a few resources available if you are developing evaluation contracts.

Rad Resource: James Bell offered a session at Evaluation 2010 on Contracting for Evaluation Products and Services. He offered advice in five areas: creating a feasible, agreed-upon concept plan; developing a well-defined request for proposals (RFP); selecting a well-qualified evaluator team that will fulfill the sponsor’s intent; constructively monitoring interim progress; and ensuring the quality and usefulness of major evaluation products. His session slides are available for free download.

Rad Resource: Melanie Hwalek of SPEC associations has shared an Evaluation Contract Template that she uses via the AEA pubic eLibrary. She also offered great tips for Evaluation Contracts in an aea365 post back in February of 2010.

Rad Resource: Daniel Stufflebeam developed an Evaluation Contracts Checklist “designed to help evaluators and clients to identify key contractual issues and make and record their agreements for conducting an evaluation.” It may be downloaded from the Evaluation Center at Western Michigan University along with a number of other evaluation-focused checklists.

Rad Resource: The American Evaluation Association has a vibrant Independent Consultants Topical Interest Group (TIG) that has the most active discussion list of any of AEA’s 40+ TIGs. If you’re not an AEA member, consider joining today, building your network, and learning from their collective expertise.

If you have ideas or resources to share regarding evaluation contracts, add them to the comments for this post!

Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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Hi, I’m Marty Henry, founder and President of M.A. Henry Consulting, LLC in St. Louis, Missouri.  As evaluators in a small, independent evaluation firm, the evaluation team at M.A. Henry Consulting is often asked to join others in joint evaluation ventures. We look forward to these invitations and are anxious to move forward with potential partners. However, we have learned to step back and take stock before we agree to any collaboration or partnership. We put on our evaluator’s hats. We use the data collection and analysis skills we have to evaluate whether the partnership will be rewarding for both us and the other party before committing.

There are three steps we take before agreeing.

Cool Trick #1: Talk several times with the primary person with whom we will be interacting. We send emails with questions and responses. We determine if communication between the two of us is clear, on-topic, pleasant and timely.

Cool Trick #2: During the conversation, we examine the quality and depth of evaluation knowledge and skills of our potential partner. We discuss the approaches they have taken in the past to similar evaluations and if they are compatible with our philosophy for approaching such evaluations.

Cool Trick #3: We clarify financial and other contractual agreements, specifically in terms of identifying the fiscal agent, publication rights, payment schedule and roles and responsibilities of each partner.

If we are uncomfortable with any of the three steps we do not usually move forward with the collaboration. You may have other areas that are critical to your working relationships with others. If so, include them in this list.

Collaborations can be wonderful – both in terms of working with new, exciting evaluators and in gaining insight into new approaches to evaluation. They can also be unpleasant. Identifying and evaluating the elements that are key to you in successful collaborations will enhance the possibility of the former and reduce the possibility of the latter!

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Independent Consultants (IC) TIG Week with our colleagues in the IC AEA Topical Interest Group. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from our IC  TIG members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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AEA365 began on January 1, 2010. Before we promoted this resource, we reached out to dedicated authors who believed in the project in order to populate the site with starter content. Those who contributed in week 1 wrote for an audience of fewer than 10. One year later we have over 1500 subscribers and are re-posting the contributions from those trailblazers in order to ensure that they receive the readership they deserve for their great ideas.

My name is Jack Mills, I’m a full-time independent evaluator. My projects are mostly in higher education, evaluating training programs in science and engineering designed to broaden participation in those fields. I also evaluate K-12 education programs designed to improve student achievement.

Hot Tip: One thing I’ve learned when setting up the contract for an evaluation project is to pay careful attention to what the project will require from the client in order to be successful. For example, program staff needs to be accessible, the program is responsible to distributing and collecting surveys, etc. I then make it very clear from the start what these dependencies are. I write the list of program staff responsibilities right into the contract. If I’m concerned about how well the evaluation project is running, I might put out a project status report every month highlighting from the project standpoint what is on track, what is in danger of falling behind and what is already behind. The status report might also remind staff of next steps in the project and upcoming milestones. Keeping the program well informed about the timeline and each person’s responsibilities should help to prevent bad surprises later on. I wish I were organized enough to put out such a status report on every project, but it does not always work out that way.

Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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Feb/10

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Melanie Hwalek on Evaluation Contracts

My name is Melanie Hwalek and I am the founder and CEO of SPEC Associates, a nonprofit organization with a national reach based in downtown Detroit, Michigan. I have been practicing the art of program evaluation for about 30 years. Our clients range from tiny grassroots organizations to major national nonprofits and foundations.

Hot Tip: Get it in writing. Whenever you are about to engage in work, whether it be for a small nonprofit agency or a major national foundation, make sure that your work agreement is in writing. Assume nothing. The more specific you can be regarding the work you or your evaluation company will do – and regarding what you are expecting your client to do – the better off both of you will be in the long run.

Rad Resource: At SPEC Associates we generate a contract with every client for whom we undertake work. The contract contains all of the elements that we think should be discussed, clarified and agreed to by the evaluator and the client prior to starting the work. Issues like: How much will we get paid? Who owns the instruments, data and/or reports? How do we terminate a relationship that isn’t working? How do we negotiate needed changes that become apparent as the work evolves? Who is the person in each organization who has the authority to sign off on major decisions? What, exactly, will each organization be responsible for doing? We’ve shared the contract template that SPEC Associates uses in AEA’s eLibrary at http://bit.ly/speccontracttemplate

This contribution is from the aea365 Daily Tips blog, by and for evaluators, from the American Evaluation Association. Please consider contributing – send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org.

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