Hello! We are Johanna Morariu, Kat Athanasiades, and Ann Emery from Innovation Network. For 20 years, Innovation Network has helped nonprofits and foundations evaluate and learn from their work.
In 2010, Innovation Network set out to answer a question that was previously unaddressed in the evaluation field—what is the state of nonprofit evaluation practice and capacity?—and initiated the first iteration of the State of Evaluation project. In 2012 we launched the second installment of the State of Evaluation project. A total of 546 representatives of 501(c)3 nonprofit organizations nationwide responded to our 2012 survey.
Lessons Learned–So what’s the state of evaluation among nonprofits? Here are the top ten highlights from our research:
1. 90% of nonprofits evaluated some part of their work in the past year. However, only 28% of nonprofits exhibit what we feel are promising capacities and behaviors to meaningfully engage in evaluation.
2. The use of qualitative practices (e.g. case studies, focus groups, and interviews—used by fewer than 50% of organizations) has increased, though quantitative practices (e.g. compiling statistics, feedback forms, and internal tracking forms—used by more than 50% of organizations) still reign supreme.
3. 18% of nonprofits had a full-time employee dedicated to evaluation.
4. Organizations were positive about working with external evaluators: 69% rated the experience as excellent or good.
5. 100% of organizations that engaged in evaluation used their findings.
6. Large and small organizations faced different barriers to evaluation: 28% of large organizations named “funders asking you to report on the wrong data” as a barrier, compared to 12% overall.
7. 82% of nonprofits believe that discussing evaluation results with funders is useful.
8. 10% of nonprofits felt that you don’t need evaluation to know that your organization’s approach is working.
9. Evaluation is a low priority among nonprofits: it was ranked second to last in a list of 10 priorities, only coming ahead of research.
10. Among both funders and nonprofits, the primary audience of evaluation results is internal: for nonprofits, it is the CEO/ED/management, and for funders, it is the Board of Directors.
Rad Resource—The State of Evaluation 2010 and 2012 reports are available online at for your reading pleasure.
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 email@example.com. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.