Nonprofit Blog

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Monday, April 28, 2014

Program evaluation is worth the effort

Posted by Armanino Nonprofit Team

For many nonprofits, the day-to-day struggle to keep the motor running has sapped the energy and enthusiasm for asking the most important question: How is my nonprofit doing?

Asking the stakeholders is time consuming. So is analyzing the data. Staff time is tight; so are the funds needed to buy software or outsource the process. Studying best practices can be helpful, but it can also be a frustrating reminder of the resources you lack. But without the knowledge, how do you know if your nonprofit needs to make changes? And what can you tell potential donors who ask about your effectiveness and efficiency? Here are some suggestions:

The Center for Effective Philanthropy offers a suite of tools, which give a 360-degree evaluation of a nonprofit. The tools measure perceptions of donors, staff, grantees and even declined applicants. Among the California nonprofits taking advantage of the donor perception tool, for example, are the Napa Valley Community Foundation, the San Francisco Foundation and the Orange County Community Foundation. There are 42 California nonprofits on the list of users for the Grantee Perception Tool.

The Foundation Center has also developed a valuable resource in its Tools and Resources for Assessing Social Impact (TRASI) database. There, nonprofits can access a number of tools that cover best practices and program evaluation.

Trade associations or your top advisors may also have information and resources to help you evaluate your program’s performance. For example, Armanino developed Rapid Performance Management, a benchmarking tool designed specifically to help our private school clients benchmark themselves against industry standards and their peers.

There’s no doubt evaluating your program takes work and resources, but in the long term, taking advantage of some of the tools and resources mentioned above will help you start improving your program’s performance and efficiency.

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