Research-Program Evaluation FAQ
Q: Why do I need a Program Evaluator
A: Most funders expect that your project will include an evaluation component because they want to be assured they are investing their money wisely. However, for project directors, a program evaluator can help determine if goals are being met (outcome evaluation) and how to improve a program (formative evaluation). A good evaluator works with program staff in planning and shaping a program to maximize effectiveness.
Q: Why not just evaluate the program myself?
A: It is an evaluator's job to design and implement program evaluation, create assessment instruments, write logic models, collect, analyze and interpret data and write reports. S/he can usually complete these tasks quickly and efficiently. Moreover, an evaluator who is independent from the program provides objectivity, or the ability to view the program from an unbiased perspective.
Although using an outside evaluator can be costly, it aids in refining the program to be more effective and sustainable. For example, if your original funding source is no longer available, an evaluator may be able to assist you in locating new funding sources and provide data to support your application.
Q: When is the best time to hire an evaluator?
A: The best time to find a program evaluator is when you are writing your grant. At the start of a project, an evaluator can assist with goal/objective clarification and the development of evaluation criteria. This will help you design goals and objectives that are measurable as well as develop ways to generate data. It is a hassle to find out (after you have been funded) that you wrote objectives that cannot be measured. Involving the evaluator from the start will provide a better, more thorough evaluation and save you money. However, many organizations cannot afford to hire an evaluator before they are funded and evaluators are accustomed to being called in after the fact and working with a challenging evaluation or assisting you in modifying your objectives so they are measurable.
Q: What can I expect from an evaluator?
A: By nature, program evaluation is a dynamic process. You should expect that your evaluator can be flexible, can act as a consultant to you, and can explain everything in understandable non-research terminology. In most instances you will work with an evaluator for a long time. You should have a good, honest, respectful working relationship (and a sense of humor always helps). Expect that in the beginning, you will meet with your evaluator frequently. There is a lot of "front-end loading" in evaluation. One key to a successful relationship is involving the evaluator as a collaborator while allowing an independent relationship to co-exist.