In the 20 years that I’ve worked in the non-profit sector, I’ve been involved in the monitoring and evaluation of every single project I’ve worked on. I’m sure that, to my colleagues, it’s sometimes seemed like a unavoidable chore, only taking place because “it’s what the funders want”. Luckily for me, I’m really interested in gathering data and analysing it. That’s what got me my last job, at Birmingham & Solihull Women’s Aid: analysing data for a Home Office-funded project for 18 months. I was employed there for 11 years!
Monitoring and evaluation are important tools to demonstrate that non-profit organisations are delivering quality services for the public, from public money. They go much further than simply saying “x people took up our services from y date to z date”. Think about each of those people: what was their situation at the beginning? What support was offered to them? How did they feel towards their support worker? What difference did the support make in the short term? The long term? How confident would that person feel about recommending the service to others? These are important questions. Utilised properly, monitoring and evaluation can give the full picture of how services have a real and lasting impact on the quality of people’s lives, and allow those people the opportunity to have genuine input into how the services can be improved and diversified.
Evaluation data can improve the information the organisation puts out to its potential service users, can promote its business to potential funders and supporters and can raise awareness of important issues that need to be brought to the attention of the public, the media and local and national governments alike. In these austere times, it is more important than ever to be able to prove one’s value as an organisation, to demonstrate that, thanks to your service, people’s lives are safer, healthier and more fulfilled, and that public money elsewhere has been saved.
Of course, many third sector organisations have the infrastructure to generate the data, analyse it, produce reports, Tweets, leaflets and funding bids from it. Or at least they did: unfortunately, these ‘back room’ jobs can be the first to go when making staffing decisions in the face of funding cuts. New and smaller organisation can also struggle to manage this work on top of their primary service delivery load.
At times like these, it may be helpful to call in a consultant. But consultants are expensive, aren’t they? And how do you find the right one? Well, if you’re reading this blogpost, it’s possible you already have. If you feel, by what you’ve read, that I will understand your organisation’s needs and you’d like to find out more, we can arrange to have an informal – and free – chat. I can be hired for an hourly, half-daily or daily rate, or we can agree a fee for a particular piece of work. And if I can’t help you, I may be able to find someone who is better suited to what you require.
Oh, and by the way, I don’t call myself a ‘Consultant’, I like to see myself as a ‘Communicator’. I hope you agree.