Connections for Success

 

09.15.14

Outcome-Based Evaluation Puts the Proof in the Pudding
Marva M. Flanagan

In the world of real estate, the mantra is location, location, location. In the world of not-for-profits and the entities that fund them, the mantra is results, results, results.

Funders of not-for-profits organizations want to know that their money is being spent responsibly and that the organization is accomplishing, or is at least working to accomplish what it said it would. One way to provide that assurance is by using performing an outcome-based evaluation.

Outcome-based evaluation, also known as results-focused evaluation, is a type of performance metric geared towards a not-for-profit’s specific programs or organizational goals. For example, an outcome-based evaluation can measure the percentage of unemployed obtaining a job within a specific time, or the number of people successfully completing a drug treatment program. In particular, outcome-based evaluation measures the changes and improvements in such things as the knowledge, skills, attitudes, behaviors or socioeconomic status of people who receive the services of the not-for-profit organization. Outcome-based evaluation assesses the aggregate of these outcomes in relation to the not-for-profit’s program stated purpose and mission. It often looks at high-level goals and objectives and helps inform managers and funders on the effect of interventions.

When used properly, an outcome-based evaluation can help an organization do a better job of communicating the distinctive qualities of its outreach and substantiating the organization’s or program’s success.

Where to Start?

A not-for-profit using outcome-based evaluation should first translate its mission into clear, measurable goals. These mission-oriented goals should then be broken down into smaller objectives.

Next, the not-for-profit should develop observable indicators that show progress was made toward those goals. A simple way to identify indicators is to answer the question: How will we know when we have successfully helped our constituents as intended by our program’s stated purpose and mission?

For example, if your mission is to help unemployed adults return to the workforce, progress could be indicated by the number of job seekers having one to three job interviews per week. Other such indicators might be developed from the goals the organization has identified. Some of these indicators could be short-term objectives with the others being longer-term goals.

How to Measure Progress?

Outcome-based evaluations typically measure indicators involving the program participants at set intervals. Time periods might vary for different phases of a program. The end result is “measured outcomes,” meaning actual changes in behavior or conditions within the monitored time period.

At the end of a given measurement period, the organization can determine whether each program has accomplished its intended outcome, thus indicating the effectiveness or success of the program.

Outcome-based evaluation is not rocket science, but it does require some study and, if desired, training. For assistance on outcome-based evaluation, contact Marva Harris at [email protected] or call her at 312.670.7444.

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