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Evaluating Evaluation: Ontario’s Non-Profit Network Releases “State of Evaluation”

Evaluation is necessary to maintain the integrity of the non-profit sector. If good is the new currency, those of us in this industry need new ways of measuring that “good”. No easy feat, evaluation work is often a stressful, expensive and time-consuming process at best. Although in some ways the moral backbone of our sector, evaluation is also one of the least discussed topics.

How many of us engage in formal evaluation processes? How often? Using what methods? Lack of sufficient documentation of evaluation practices, as well as statistics may be the greatest barrier to these questions, but the Ontario Non-Profit Network’s newest report, “The State of Evaluation:  Measurement and Evaluation Practices in Ontario’s Nonprofit Sector,” seeks to address these gaps in our collective knowledge. “The State of Evaluation”,released in October 2018, reports on the key findings from a survey circulated between May 10th and July 8th of this year and includes the responses of approximately 1,300 charities and non-profits in Ontario.

Key Findings and Highlights from the report include:

-94% of non-profits in Ontario complete evaluation work

-74% use their evaluations to revise programs and 73% use them in reports to funders

-Only 28% of externally funded organizations say their funding includes money specifically allocated to evaluation work

-Only 14% of organizations have a specifically designated staff person on board for evaluation work

-19% of organizations work with an external consultant to complete evaluation work

– Organizations most commonly evaluate outputs (71% of organizations), outcomes (60%) and quality (56%), however, only 35% of organizations evaluate long-term and/or systemic impacts

The State of Evaluation,” makes it clear that the average non-profit in Ontario, doesn’t have the capacity (staff, time, resources), to complete much of this work on their own.  As a social innovation consulting agency, we work closely with non-profits conducting evaluation work to help them better understand their impact on complex issues (Computers for Success, Peel Emergency Food Distribution, White Ribbon, Regional Diversity Roundtable. We find Developmental Evaluation to be one of the most effective ways to do that. Often difficult to define, Developmental Evaluation is a dynamic way of providing constant feedback in real time. It is the re-evaluation, re-engineering and ongoing intervention of a program or service in the midst of its delivery. Developmental Evaluation is an evaluation method well-suited to complex intersectional issues, like those many non-profit organizations are looking to address. In comparison to Outcomes-based evaluation and Process-based evaluation, Developmental Evaluation is used during times of crisis when a rapid response is needed or when an organization is unsure of what outcomes they want to accomplish or processes they want to use. If you are interested in learning more about Developmental Evaluation Innoweave has some great resources.


Interested in learning more about the report? You can read more hereCurious to learn about how Eco-Ethonomics can aide your organization in the evaluation process, email us at  [email protected]