Program evaluation, set forth in a detailed report, is key to validating your organization's efforts and demonstrating that you achieved what you aimed to achieve. The structure and format of program evaluation reports vary by organization. Often, these reports are used to provide information to those outside the organization as a way to secure future funding, but many program evaluations are used solely for internal validation and reflection. A rigorous evaluation, based on ongoing record-keeping and collection of data, is important to ensure that high-quality services are provided to your clients.
Define your program's goals and baselines for success, and gather all necessary data. Study the formative aspects of the program by finding out if your program did what it was supposed to do. For example, if your program was supposed to enroll 800 people in a job-training program and have 85% of them employed three months later, look at records of enrollment, interviews and employment to see if these numbers were met. Study the summative aspects--how successful your program was--by using statistics to determine the level of your program's success.
Write an introduction and background to provide the context of your evaluation to donors and readers outside the organization. First, describe your program's mission and goals in enough detail to familiarize readers with what you did and why you did it. Then, discuss any similar programs run by other organizations. Address how successful those programs were and if you expect that your program will see the same results.
Describe your methodology--what you are aiming to measure and how you are measuring it. Include the data you collected and how you collected it. If you are using advanced statistical techniques, be sure to include all appropriate formulas and an explanation in layman's terms for your audience.
Discuss your findings and their impact. Describe if your program achieved its goals, what level of success you achieved and who benefited. Include graphs and charts in this section to give a clear visual representation of your data and make your statistics and results easier to understand. Add information from interviews or focus groups to put a human touch on your findings.
Develop conclusions and recommendations. At a minimum, you should sum up whether you felt that the program was successful and if you believe that it should continue in the future. Address any suggested changes or expansions to the program; this is purely speculative, but it will help contextualize your findings and use them in a meaningful way.
It is insufficient to simply compare before-and-after statistics; it is often necessary to used advanced statistical techniques. If you do not have a background in statistics, you can often find a student through your local college's graduate program in statistics, public administration or public policy who will be willing to provide a free or low-cost statistical analysis for your report. Always present a draft of the program evaluation report to your colleagues to get their feedback. This will allow you to see if you overlooked any important areas and to share your views on the program.
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