Best of aea365 week: 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.

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

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 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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