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Canadians Work on Better Evaluation of Nonprofits

WASHINGTON (AFP eWire - Oct. 14, 2003) - Canadian nonprofits tend to evaluate their programs and services at least once a year, but how such an assessment is conducted could be improved, a new report found.

The report Assessing Performance: Evaluation Practices & Perspectives in Canada's Voluntary Sector was released Sept. 25 by the Voluntary Sector Evaluation Research Project (VSERP). VSERP was designed to improve the capacity of organizations in Canada in order to evaluate their work and communicate their effectiveness to funders, donors and the public.

In a phone survey of 1,965 voluntary groups and 322 funders in 2001, 77 percent of the organizations said they had conducted some type of evaluation in the previous year. Sixty-six percent evaluated ongoing products and services, 56 percent had evaluated projects and 54 percent had evaluated the overall effectiveness of their organization.

The organizations also reported that funders were expecting more evaluation information than they had been three years earlier. In addition, 49 percent said funders wanted more information on the impact of their programs and not just outputs such as the number of clients served.

But while funders are demanding more, they have not increased their financial support of evaluation procedures. Only about 1 in 5 reported that they gave more money in the past three years for assessment.

Lack of money was one of the problems voluntary organizations pointed to as they tried to conduct evaluations. Other problems included lack of internal capacity such as staff or time, lack of knowledge in conducting evaluations and unclear direction from funders about what they want in an evaluation.

Following the survey, researchers met with voluntary groups and funders to discuss the findings and develop recommendations to improve the evaluation process.

The recommendations were:

  • the creation of resources such as an 'Evaluation for Dummies' handbook and evaluation templates,
  • more financial resources to conduct assessments,
  • greater communication and coordination among funders on evaluation requirements and terminology,
  • greater access to technology, training and education,
  • a campaign to inform the sector about the importance of evaluations,
  • a resource center that would offer online access to evaluation resources, and
  • the development of a partnership approach in which nonprofits and funders would work together to determine appropriate evaluation measures.

For a copy of the report, visit the VSERP website.

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