Using External Evaluators
When will you need to engage an external evaluator? It is not realistic or even appropriate to expect nonprofit program staff become evaluation experts. This toolkit will provide you with enough information about evaluation so that 1) you can do some evaluation in-house, and 2) you can identify times when it might be necessary to work with an evaluation consultant.
Your timeline and resources, the complexity of your program, and the type of evaluation you want to conduct will all be factors in deciding whether you have the expertise in-house or whether you need external assistance.
Some ways to seek out technical assistance include networking with partner organizations or forming an expert advisory panel. If you decide to use an evaluation consultant, be sure to select someone whose experience and expertise are a good fit with your program and your evaluation needs (see sidebar, “Characteristics of a Good Evaluator”).
An external evaluator can be used on any aspect of an evaluation—she or he could just design the evaluation, or do the whole thing from start to finish. Using an external evaluator often can speed up the evaluation process, saving time and resources, while enhancing the quality of the evaluation.
The ERC is available to help health nonprofits in Georgia you determine when using an external evaluator would be appropriate, and provide recommendations for potential local evaluators if needed.
Characteristics of a Good Evaluator
- Has experience in the type of evaluation needed.
- Is comfortable with qualitative and quantitative data sources and analysis.
- Is able to work with a wide variety of stakeholders, including representatives of target populations.
- Can develop innovative approaches to evaluation while considering the realities affecting a program (e.g., a small budget).
- Incorporates evaluation into all program activities.
- Understands both the potential benefits and risks of evaluation.
- Educates program personnel about designing and conducting the evaluation.
- Will give staff the full findings (i.e., will not gloss over or fail to report certain findings for any reason).
- Has strong coordination and organization skills.
- Explains material clearly and patiently.
- Respects all levels of personnel.
- Communicates well with key personnel.
- Exhibits cultural competence.
- Delivers reports and protocols on time.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Office of the Director, Office of Strategy and Innovation (2005). Introduction to program evaluation for public health programs: A self-study guide (pp. 8). Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.