Non-profit organizations are increasingly required to demonstrate that the programs they sponsor have achieved their planned outcomes. A trend that started with government grants well over a decade ago has taken hold in the foundation sector and indeed, many non-profits have begun to document results proactively, so they have something to show potential funders in their grant proposals. Conducting a meaningful outcome evaluation requires an in depth understanding of the people and systems that are affected by a program’s existence. Many of these impacts are explicit, but some are not. For a brief case study, click here.
Our approach to outcome evaluation examines more than just a program’s most obvious outcomes. We believe the best way to do this is to spend time up front listening to stakeholders describe their work and understanding the context within which a program operates. From our perspective, outcome evaluation has two parts. One involves documenting what was done, while the other is about demonstrating impacts. The goal of an outcome evaluation should be to show whether and how the former brought about the latter. Answering both questions together helps programs and funders better understand what works and why. Since we believe that evaluation ought to serve the public good, we orient all our work to do just that.