Existing program records are among the best places to find information for an evaluation. At a minimum, a program information management system should contain detailed data about program participants — demographic elements such as age, ethnicity, and any history that relates to your service (diagnosis for example). A best practices approach to information capture would also include data about the services participants received, the outcomes of those services, and participants’ current status.
The key to using existing information in an evaluation is to make sure that you are collecting what you need in the first place. With the right kinds of data and some skill using a data analysis program such as Excel you should be able to at least document your work and begin to surface any patterns that exist. For example, you might find that women respond better to one kind of service whereas men respond better to another. This kind of data is not only useful as reporting information but can also help you retool your program in order to better serve your participants.