Author: Dr Karleen Gwinner
More and more funders are wanting to see evaluations of the programs they fund. They want to know the funds they provide are having an impact. Effective Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) of your programs supports your ability to prove the impact, show the need and progress evidence informed programs. NGOs who actively measure impact, say that their M&E efforts improve their services and ability to demonstrate impact (Making an Impact).
In Australia, NGO agencies deliver an increasingly wide range of health and welfare services benefiting communities both here and abroad. They enhance the fabric of our society and make the world a better place. Still, it’s not uncommon for us to hear from organisations that they don’t have M&E methods in place. They don’t have data to show the impact and performance of their programs. The recent “distrusted” rating, reported in the 2018 Edelman TRUST BAROMETER, suggest Australia’s NGO sector needs to boost sector accountability and do more to measure up.
Apart from the fact funders are increasingly seeking evidence of impact and want to get more ‘bang for their buck’, good M&E frameworks help NGOs to identify and develop evidence-based policy and practice. Only 5% of NGOs say that wanting to improve services is a primary motivation for increasing their impact measurement efforts; and yet, improved strategy and services, as well as the ability to demonstrate impact, are the main benefits they see of undertaking M&E activities.
A study of factors supporting or preventing evaluation by NGOs emphasised the need of M&E to understanding effectiveness (or possible harms) to vulnerable service users and a significant step to ensure best-practice (Bach-Mortensen, & Montgomery, 2018). An article by the authors of the review indicated the lack of financial resources was the biggest limitation to undertaking M&E, followed by the lack of technical capability. A recent Australian study found, leadership and culture to be pivotal for influencing evaluation practice in Australian NGOs (Schwarzman, Bauman, Gabbe, Rissel, Shilton, and Smith, 2018).
Enhancing the capacity to do evaluation is undeniably important for NGOs. In recent years several resources have been developed to help agencies evaluate best practice. Some recent initiatives are supporting NGO capacity to develop robust M&E include: The Australian Institute of Family Studies’ searchable database of Australian research and evaluation projects; and Inspiring Australia’s resource kit to help NGOs develop effective evaluation strategies for events.
We are here to help too. Strategic Grants is at the forefront of knowing how you can better account for what really matters in your work. We want to support you to build and strengthen the sectors’ capacity to do M&E, be accountable and #measureup.
J Schwarzman, A Bauman, B Gabbe, C Rissel, T Shilton, B J Smith (2018). Organizational determinants of evaluation practice in Australian prevention agencies, Health Education Research, Volume 33, Issue 3, 1 Pages 243–255, https://doi-org.ezp01.library.qut.edu.au/10.1093/her/cyy015