While grant professionals generally know something about program evaluation, few are evaluation experts schooled in the nuances of statistical analysis, control groups, quantification of soft data, and the like.
For some grant-funded programs, simple evaluations that rely on pre-and post-tests, commercially available surveys, or pre and post comparisons of straight-forward and easily available data may be adequate. But for complicated programs that need to gather and assess a variety of complex data, it’s advisable to call in an evaluation expert to help you design the approach.
“In some circumstances, the professional quality of the evaluation plan will win or lose the competition,” said Barbara Floersch of The Grantsmanship Center in Los Angeles, Calif. “The knowledge, skills, and arm’s length objectivity of a third-party expert can make all the difference.”
If your organization’s proposals often require high-level evaluation plans, Floersch suggests developing an ongoing relationship with an expert you can call on for assistance. But how do you find the person or company you need? Any of the following groups might be able to provide recommendations.
Funders that require evaluations
University faculty members
Other organizations that use evaluation contractors
State agencies that administer grant programs or that conduct research
Private research firms
The American Evaluation Association
Once you have a few solid recommendations, vet each expert thoroughly. “You’re not just looking for a solid professional,” said Floersch. “You’re also looking for an individual or a group who are a good fit for your organization’s culture, values, and areas of interest.”
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