Want funding? Show me the outcomes.

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In the past decade we continue to see a shift in how a nonprofit measures success. Increasingly, funders are demanding outcomes-based evaluation, and some are even willing to pay for it. Ensuring that programs do what they are supposed to be doing has always been important, but as we move into the future, they will have to show proof of their success. Although, nonprofit organizations should not complete program evaluation only to please their funder, they should complete program evaluation to ensure they their programs are truly effective, and outcome-based evaluation focuses on whether programs are really making a difference for clients.

While some nonprofits may say, “I’m already evaluating my programs!”, I am not talking about evaluation in terms of many people you serve, participant satisfaction, or how much money you spent per client. I am talking about the impact your services have for your constituents during and after your programming.

The W. K. Kellogg Foundation has a wealth of resources published online that you can download for free. Their Evaluation Handbook is useful if you would like to learn more about evaluation and provides a blueprint for conducting project-level evaluations. The Foundation believes that nonprofit organizations should be using logic models, which are “a learning and management tool that can be used throughout a program’s life – no matter what your stake in the program. Using evaluation and the logic model results in effective programming and offers greater learning opportunities, better documentation of outcomes, and shared knowledge about what works and why. The logic model is a beneficial evaluation tool that facilitates effective program planning, implementation, and evaluation.” You can download the Foundation’s free Logic Model Development Guide here.

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