Hello, my name is Salvatore Alaimo and I am an Assistant Professor in the School of Public, Nonprofit and Health Administration at Grand Valley State University. I would like to share some tips on the evaluator’s role in evaluation capacity building with nonprofit organizations.
Evaluation Capacity Building (ECB) continues to gain momentum in the literature and in our profession thanks to scholars, researchers and practitioners such as Baizerman, Compton, & Stockdill; Bamberger, Rugh, & Mabry; Boyle, & Lemaire; Fetterman; Miller, Kobayashi, & Noble; Milstein, Chapel, Wetterhall, & Cotton; Patton; Presskill, & Russ-Eft; Sanders; Stufflebeam; Volkov, & King and others. Nonprofits have been challenged with meeting demands for evaluation from foundations, government agencies, the United Way and accrediting bodies, and face the question of what it takes to efficiently and effectively evaluate their programs.
These authors tell us that ECB is context dependent. The challenge we face as evaluators is determining what our specific role should be in ECB. Where is the line between helping a nonprofit organization develop evaluation capacity and becoming an enabler who contributes to co-dependency? Do we help the organization to continue without our assistance and work ourselves out of a job, or do we do just enough to get them started in the ECB process and leave them to continue to build capacity on their own? If we intervene too much, at what point are we taking on responsibilities and tasks best left for the organization’s stakeholders to build a culture for evaluation, mainstream it, and incorporate it into organizational learning?
These questions present challenges for our profession. There are tools we can use to help us navigate these dilemmas and incorporate into our decision making to strive to balance assisting nonprofits in ECB while leaving enough for them to enact on their own.
Hot Tip: I recommend two evaluation checklists by Stufflebeam and Volkov & King in the ECB category found on the Evaluation Center’s web site – http://www.wmich.edu/evalctr/checklists/checklistmenu.htm . I also recommend the program evaluation standards from the Joint Committee found on AEA’s web site at http://www.eval.org/EvaluationDocuments/progeval.html as well as the Guiding Principles for Evaluators at http://www.eval.org/Publications/aea06.GPBrochure.pdf . There are no magic pills or quick answers for working through the challenges of our role in ECB; however if you use these documents together in your ECB work, I believe you will find them extremely helpful in making wise choices and sound decisions.