NPF TIG Week: Trina Willard on Moving from Measurement Strategy to Implementation in Small Nonprofits

My name is Trina Willard and I am the Principal of Knowledge Advisory Group, a small consulting firm that provides research and evaluation services to nonprofits, government agencies and small businesses. I’ve worked with a variety of nonprofit organizations over the years, many of which have limited staff and financial resources.

Such organizations sometimes have the opportunity to secure a small grant from a funder, awarded with good intentions to “nudge” their evaluation capacity in the right direction. These dollars may be adequate to create a measurement strategy or evaluation plan, but support is rarely provided for implementation. Consequently, many recipients leave these efforts with the feeling that they’ve accomplished little. So how do we effectively guide these organizations, but avoid leaving them in the frustrating position of being unable to take next steps? These three strategies have worked well for me in my consulting practice. 

Hot Tip #1: Discuss implementation capacity at the onset of measurement planning. Get leadership engaged and put the organization on notice early that the evaluation plan won’t implement itself. Help them identify an internal evaluation champion who will drive the process, provide oversight and monitor progress.

Hot Tip #2: Leave behind a process guide. Provide clear written guidance on how the organization should move forward with data collection. The guide should answer these questions, at a minimum:

  • Who is responsible for collecting the data?
  • What are the timelines for data collection?
  • How and where will the data be stored?
  • What does accountability for data collection look like?

Hot Tip #3: Create an analysis plan. Great data is useless if it sits in a drawer or languishes in a computer file, unanalyzed. Spend a few hours coaching your client on the key considerations for analysis, to include assigning responsibilities, recommended procedures, and how to find no/low-cost analysis resources.

Below are a few of our favorite go-to resources for small nonprofits that need support implementing evaluation strategies.

Rad Resources: Creating and Implementing a Data Collection Plan by Strengthening Nonprofits. Try this if you need a quick overview to share with staff.

Analyzing Outcome Information by The Urban Institute. This resource, referenced in the above-noted overview, digs into more details. Share it with the organization’s evaluation champion as a starting point to build analysis capacity.

Building Evaluation Capacity by Hallie Preskill and Darlene Russ-Eft. I’ve recommended this book before for nonprofits and it bears repeating. The tools, templates and exercises in the Collecting Evaluation Data and Analyzing Evaluation Data sections are particularly valuable for those that need implementation support.

What tips and resources do you use to prepare small nonprofits for implementing measurement strategies with limited resources?

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Nonprofits and Foundations Topical Interest Group (NPFTIG) Week. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from our NPFTIG 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 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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