Nonprofit Organizations Seek Stakeholder Participation in Program Evaluations

Program evaluation in the nonprofit sector

Innovation Network, Washington, a nonprofit that specializes in evaluation and planning, investigated the role of stakeholder participation in program evaluation.

The investigators surveyed nonprofit organizations believed to have conducted at least one program evaluation in the past three years. They conducted follow-up phone interviews with 40 survey respondents and developed in-depth profiles of four organizations.

Key Findings

  • The researchers found that the participation of stakeholders increased satisfaction with an evaluation and improved its design and usefulness.

  • According to the study, the most useful evaluation began with a focused design, documented results, provided recommendations for program improvement, and contributed to an agency's planning effort.

  • Recent evaluations by nonprofits:

    • Are focused on outcome measurements.
    • Are conducted primarily for current funders, followed by program staff and board members.
    • Include a mixture of quantitative and qualitative data collection methods.
  • Most respondents (70%) reported that stakeholder involvement played an important role in the evaluation, especially in increasing the likelihood that programmatic changes were based on evaluation findings.

  • Respondents with high-participation evaluations were more likely to think their staff, board, and funders found the evaluation highly credible than respondents with low-participation evaluations.