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Helping Nonprofits Fine Tune Their Success

Helping Nonprofits Fine Tune Their Success

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Participants at Evaluation 101 take notes.Nonprofits conduct important work in the community. But how do they know that they’re making the impact they set out to make? While evaluation may seem like a confusing abstract concept, there are some concrete steps that nonprofits can take to get started with conducting their own evaluation.

Jessica Sperling, lead of evaluation and engagement at the Social Science Research Institute, recently hosted a workshop for nonprofit staff titled Evaluation 101: Assessing Impact & Improving Programming. Megan Gray, project associate in evaluation and engagement, co-facilitated. Held at the Bullpen in downtown Durham's Imperial Building, the event led to a number of overflow sessions due to its popularity.

Meant to help non-profit, public, or community-based organizations and programs, the workshop guided participants through the basics of how to conduct a focused evaluation to improve their programming.

Jessica Sperling presents at Evaluation 101 workshop in downtown DurhamTopics included:

  • How to get started.
  • When to conduct evaluations.
  • What nonprofits can learn from conducting evaluations.
  • Types of evaluation.
  • Steps in evaluation design, planning, and implementation
  • Tips for feasibility in a limited-resource environment.

It can be an intimidating process to start, so the point is to jump in and start somewhere, even if that first step is a small one.

“We try to show the diverse ways in which evaluation can inform programs as providing evidence of impact, but also more than that. We highlight the fact that evaluation is at its best if viewed as a learning opportunity and not as punitive or scary or a mundane reporting need.”

After all, it’s the opportunity to help shape better community programming that unites nonprofit staff and professional evaluators on the same team. By helping organizations measure and understand what they do that’s successful while discovering areas for improvement, it’s a win-win for communities. The populations they serve get even better programming and the nonprofit staff can work smarter rather than harder.

“Evaluation and data-informed decision-making are crucial to strategic and meaningful organizational development. If we can help contribute to this and serve the community we live in, I think it’s our responsibility to do so. This focus on community empowerment is central to the work that we do, and it’s in line with a broader university vision,” Sperling said.

Visit the SSRI Evaluation & Engagement page here to learn more about their work, partnerships, and services.

For more photos of the event, visit the album on flickr.

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