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Evaluation. It’s a term that can evoke an array of emotions, most of which are not necessarily positive. But if we make it about improvement and not just proof, then the concept is not so intimidating. Even the simplest nonprofit needs to be able to measure what it is doing. Before beginning any new project (or if you are simply reviewing the ones you have now), it can be helpful to clearly articulate your “theory of change.” A Theory of Change reflects the end vision you hope to achieve, the methodology you plan to use, and the changes in behavior and/or thinking that you expect your program or service to bring about. Theories of Change are great tools for helping you pinpoint the underlying assumptions behind your initiatives so you can determine if the results you are expecting are actually viable given the resources your are investing (your inputs).
Similarly, the use of logic models, can provide significant assistance in the program planning, development and evaluation phases. The elements of a logic model – inputs, outputs and outcomes, helps nonprofit organizations (and valued stakeholders) quickly assess what resources are being invested in a project or service, what is being produced and how those production units are impacting target audiences immediately and over the long haul.
To learn more about the benefits of evaluation and tools that work well for the nonprofit sector, visit our Resources page.