Montana Nonprofit Association

promoting a strong nonprofit sector in MONTANA

Principle: Evaluation

Nonprofits have an obligation to demonstrate their value to the public they serve. Nonprofits regularly measure their performance both in terms of effectiveness—such as outcomes and results of services (the “what”)—and efficiency—such as service delivery systems (the “how”). The public and nonprofit constituencies have a stake in nonprofit performance and should be informed about results. Evaluation is appropriate to the size and activities of the organization and evaluation data is used to continually improve the quality of processes, programs and activities.

 KEY   ★★★ Legal Practices are legally required of all Montana nonprofits 
  ★★ Essential Practices are widely recognized as industry standards and generally expected of all nonprofits 
  ★ Recommended Practices should be considered by all nonprofits, with implementation dependent on capacity and life stage 
 

Practices

GENERAL 

1. ★ A nonprofit has in place defined, ongoing and sustainable processes for assessing its programs, procedures, outcomes and impact. All efforts at a nonprofit are assessed in relation to its mission based on shared values and beliefs, group assumptions about programmatic means, and intended impact on the community and people served.


2. ★ A nonprofit commits to effective and efficient delivery of service and regularly monitors whether the services being delivered leading to constituent experience/satisfaction also align with the nonprofit mission.

METHODOLOGY AND MEASUREMENT 

3. ★ Nonprofit evaluation includes input from a diverse cross-section of stakeholders, including staff, the board of directors, funders, constituents, and community members.

4. ★★★ Information collected from constituents must be kept confidential and must not be released in a manner that would allow identification of specific persons served except with their written permission. MT, US

5. ★★ A nonprofit conducts, analyzes and interprets evaluations in ways that are culturally sensitive and appropriate to the communities they serve and aspire to serve.

6. ★ Evaluation tools are created to proactively respond to the needs of diverse constituencies and stakeholders. Staff and volunteers are trained to administer these evaluation tools in a welcoming and affirming manner.

7. ★ Performance measures are realistic, specific and appropriate to the size and scope of the organization and its constituents.
a. Performance measures inform the organization’s planning and decision-making and influence decisions to continue, refocus or end programs or efforts.

 
b. Measurement seeks information on activities, results, and community input.

 
c. Measurement includes both qualitative and quantitative analysis methods. While potentially valuable for marketing and fund development purposes, client testimonials/stories are not by themselves evaluation. Similarly, service counts are necessary measures for reporting volume of service, but are not evaluative of impact or effect on their own.

 
d. Measurement seeks data focused on the impact of the nonprofit’s work on participant outcomes that affect knowledge, attitudes, skills, behavior, or condition, ideally in a lasting way.

 

8. ★ A nonprofit organization uses external evaluators when appropriate and feasible. These evaluators should follow the national Guiding Principles for Evaluators set forth by the American Evaluation Association (www.eval.org).


USE OF EVALUATION RESULTS 

9. ★★ Evaluation results are used to strengthen and improve the nonprofit’s programs and activities by incorporating them into organizational planning processes.

10. ★ Evaluation results are communicated to a diverse cross-section of stakeholders, including staff, the board of directors, funders, constituents, and community members, using methods that are accessible to the community.

11. ★ A nonprofit trains its personnel in evaluation methods so as to improve their understanding and utilization of information developed from evaluation activities.

12. ★A nonprofit shares relevant lessons learned with other nonprofits and funding sources.

13. ★ Strong nonprofits embrace evaluation as a learning, accountability and management tool, both internally and externally. By taking the initiative to “own” their evaluation practices and modeling; evaluation provides nonprofits a tool for continuous learning; for demonstrating effectiveness to funders and the community; and that supports and shows continued efforts to become more effective.

14. ★★ In conducting evaluation, nonprofits strive to use the most scientifically rigorous methods possible, including external evaluation, taking into account resource limitations and/or ethical constraints. As appropriate, nonprofits will take care to use reporting language that accurately describes correlation rather than a causation between programmatic efforts and outcomes.

15. ★ Nonprofits regularly and judiciously assess their data collection practices and data use to minimize unnecessary collection of data and maximize the collection and use of relevant data to inform strategic directions, programs and services.

   Communications  ~  Financial Management

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