Part 2 is here! As a follow-up to my previous post, “Top Five Considerations when Hiring an External Evaluation Consultant,” here I list the top things an organization should do internally before hiring an evaluator. How can an organization get its own house in order to prepare for an evaluation
1. Know what you need and why you need evaluation. Do you need help with strategic planning or developing a logic model? Or, do you have set program outcomes you need measured? Do you have a pile of unanalyzed data? Your needs will determine who can best assist you and help guide you toward the right evaluator.
2. Think through your evaluation budget. This is a tough one. Evaluation can be expensive, and can be a tough pill to swallow when program funding is tight. Work through what evaluation services you need vs. what you want. When these differ, you may have to prioritize. An experienced external evaluator can help you sift through what services they can provide and at what price, and which services to prioritize, dependent upon your objectives. For example, are you conducting the evaluation for a specific grant? The grant guidelines may drive the evaluation services you hire. Is this your organization’s first evaluation, for general purposes? Then you may want to go broad, not deep, if your evaluation budget is tight. Price and budgets can be awkward topics when hiring an external consultant, but they are important, so don’t be afraid to broach them early.
3. Timing is everything. Bring an evaluator into your project as soon as you can afford it. It can take a few months to plan a high-quality evaluation, so be sure to bring your consultant in early enough to help shape the evaluation plan. Also, for some research studies, approval from an external ethics board or Institutional Review Board (“IRB”) may be necessary. Be sure to factor in IRB approval to your timeline, if needed. Also allow the evaluator plenty of time to get to know your program and observe it in action.
4. Are program staff and employees on board? Be sure that all levels of staff are ready, organizationally and mentally, for an external evaluator to come in and work with them. And, do they have the bandwidth to work with the evaluator? Think through the extra time it will take you and your staff to bring in an external consultant, and how much time you and your staff have to explain and demonstrate the program to the evaluator, provide them with data, and provide access to key players.
5. Finally, know your expectations and be ready to communicate them. Be clear with potential evaluators what you expect from them, regarding the content of their work and services they will provide, and the professional communication you expect from them. Ideally this is all part of their contract, but also part of the initial conversation.
Now you should be ready to start your search for an external evaluation consultant.