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F.A.Q.

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How can evaluation help my organization or program?

Evaluation can be a useful tool to help you assess where your organization or program is currently at in terms of performance compared to where or what it wants to achieve as the ultimate goal or outcome.  Thus an evaluation is used to identify gaps within the organization or program so you can address those gaps or identify what has worked well and what hasn’t. At the same time, an evaluation is a useful tool to help you demonstrate what outcomes or goals you’ve achieved as well as to establish a track record to help obtain funding or support for your organization or program.   

Why is investing in a rigorous evaluation so important?

Rigorous evaluation is essential because if you don’t identify or define the aspects of your program, organization, or company that can lead to success, you can’t measure it.  If you can’t measure it, you can’t optimize it.  Additionally, if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.  If you can’t manage it, then you likely aren’t able to identify what precisely has a direct impact on the success of your program, organization, or company.  In other words, if you can identify and measure success factors, using a rigorous evaluation, you’re more likely to manage things well and attract better resources effectively. 

What type of evaluation should I conduct and when?

Evaluations vary depending on the type of organization, program stages and needs, and goals/objectives/outcomes.  There is no specific ideal time to conduct one, but typically, the sooner, the better.

The sooner you start to conduct an evaluation, the sooner you’ll have information to improve your decision-making.  Having specific, detailed evaluation results helps you provide key stakeholders with information about how a program, organization, department, company, etc. is doing and how it is changing.  It also allows decision-makers to make timely, different decisions if needed.

If you’re planning to apply for a grant, you should complete an evaluation at least six to 12 months beforehand, so you have results to demonstrate how your program is performing before applying for a grant. 

What makes a good evaluation?

  • A strong plan
  • Clear and easily identifiable and measurable outcomes and outputs
  • Robust measurement tools that align with goals and context
  • Appropriate data analysis methods
  • Informed knowledge of the benefits and pros/cons of evaluation
  • Committed stakeholders and active participants

How do I make evaluation an integral part of my program or company?

Evaluation is a practice, but it is also a way of thinking differently about how you make decisions and the information you use to make those decisions.  Making evaluation an integral part of your program or company culture is imperative because there are no limitations to what the data and insights can provide, as long as those using the evaluation are willing to actively apply it to everyday decisions.

What’s the difference between evaluation and audit?

An audit implies that there is an independent examination of some sort that is otherwise compliance-driven or required, and not seen as a positive process because parties otherwise are unwilling to go through it.  An audit implies that there is also some reporting body that the results must be shared with or reported to. 

An evaluation conducted by a third party (like SmartStart) is not an audit.  Like an audit, an evaluation can increase the value and credibility or confidence in a specific process and helps to provide transparent results that you otherwise would not have. It is not compliance-driven, or typically required or reported to anyone other than who you choose to share it with. However, when applying for specific grants, an evaluation may be required by the funder. 

I’m not a non-profit or educational establishment, can you still help me?

Yes, we can definitely help you as an organization. We can do an evaluation or assessment for any kind of organization.  The approach or objectives vary as each evaluation and assessment is explicitly customized to your establishment’s needs and outcomes.

How do I become a data-driven organization?

Please reach out to us to have a specific conversation about your organization’s needs and what you want to achieve as a data-driven organization, and we can customize a proposed scope of work that is specific to how or what you want to accomplish.  There is no one way to become a data-driven organization, as each organization seeks to accomplish different things or has a different view of how much data they want to collect and analyze or use. 

What does an organizational effectiveness engagement look like and how will you help us assess organizational effectiveness?

Engaged, committed, and involved employees, with clear roles, priorities, and accountability, help create an efficient and productive organization. A cohesive leadership team with a clear vision are also critical factors.

We can help develop an assessment framework that is customized to your organizational goals, structure, context, and needs based on these factors. Within this framework, we will develop indicators to assess critical components that drive organizational effectiveness, such as behaviors, engagement, and structure. 

We help collect data through surveys, interviews, document review, focus group discussions, and observations. The findings will be helpful for you to learn where the organization is functioning effectively and where it is not, as well as how these areas currently affect your financials s and predict your future growth.

I have a great program, and our company is successful; how can you help us improve?

We can help you assess where you are and identify the areas where you need to improve to reach the next level of how you define success.  There isn’t any organization that achieves a final pinnacle of success and stops growing, developing, or scaling.  Thus, our work as evaluators is never done, because there are always ways for us to help you further improve upon your work processes and approaches to how you operate.

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