Some Definitions and Terminology
Now that we have determined who might be involved in an outcomes-based
program evaluation, it’s time to get into the nitty-gritty of
what that process involves. First, we have to get our heads around a
bit of new language.
Outcomes-based evaluation uses specific terminology. Whether you read
the United Way’s resource or any other “how to” resource,
or any outcomes-based evaluation reports, you are going to come across
these same terms. Although it may seem somewhat confusing at first,
the next section will give you some concrete examples to help you more
clearly understand the various components of outcomes-based evaluation.
For more information and examples of the terminology, be sure to review
Carter McNamara’s Basic Guide to Outcomes-Based Evaluation for
Nonprofit Organizations with Very Limited Resources (www.managementhelp.org/evaluatn/outcomes.htm) and United Way's Online Resource Network (http://edayofaction.com/Outcomes/)
which offers information, downloadable documents, and links to resources related to the identification and measurement of program-and community-level outcomes.
Unfortunately, the United Way’s guide is not available in its
entirety on their website, but they do have some excerpts from it. Contact
your local United Way Agency if you’re interested in further training – many
of them offer workshops using their approach. You may be able to borrow
the guide from your local United Way agency, or your library might also
have a copy. And if you want to purchase it yourself, it’s not
very expensive … it only cost $5 US. You can find the ordering
information on the website.
Outcomes-based evaluation has four main components. We’ll examine
each one separately:
- Outcomes (accompanied by targets and indicators)
Inputs are the materials and resources that support an
agency’s activities. Inputs can include staff, volunteers, equipment,
books and anything else that supports program activities. Inputs also
include the laws and regulations that relate to the operation of your
agency. This includes federal and provincial laws, by-laws, policies
and procedures and any contracts with funders or partners.