Evaluation is a critical tool for nonprofit organizations. A well-crafted program evaluation helps to ensure that programs are actually accomplishing their intended goals, provides accountability to funders, and helps map plans for the future. But only 28% of nonprofit organizations have promising capacities and behaviors in place to meaningfully engage in evaluation (2012, Innovation Network, Inc.).
Here in Greensboro, North Carolina, a newly developed partnership is helping ensure local nonprofits are prepared to effectively evaluate their programs. Researchers and evaluators at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG) in the Department of Educational Research Methodology (ERM) and the SERVE Center are working with the Guilford Nonprofit Consortium to identify and respond to community evaluation needs. After two years of conversations with nonprofit executive directors and staff and foundation leaders, UNCG announced the launch of the Nonprofit Evaluation Support Program (NESP) in fall of 2014.
NESP guides Piedmont Triad nonprofit organizations in improving their effectiveness and better meeting their goals by providing services aimed at increasing their program evaluation activities and capacity. NESP services are delivered by program evaluation experts of the SERVE Center and UNCG graduate students specializing in program evaluation. Alongside these non-profit collaborations, NESP offers valuable hands-on learning experiences for future leaders in the field of program evaluation.
“We intend for NESP to help build long-term capacity in the community,” said Dr. Randall Penfield, ERM Department Chair. “NESP is in the position to provide program evaluation services at a low cost, and we can work with individual nonprofit organizations to develop a service delivery plan based upon their respective budget constraints.”
To date, NESP has hosted five pilot projects, providing over 1,000 hours of direct support to Backpack Beginnings, The Barnabas Network, The Music Academy of North Carolina, Aging, Disability, and Transit Services of Rockingham County, and the Central Carolina Health Network.
Parker White, Executive Director of Backpack Beginnings, worked with NESP to review and update the surveys they send to students, parents, teachers, social workers, and principals to evaluate their backpack programs. “This is the most comprehensive data we have ever collected and the suggested changes will only allow us to strengthen the surveys going forward,” White says.
At the Barnabas Network, a nonprofit that provides gently used and refurbished furniture to those in need, NESP helped develop an evaluation plan to address questions of program implementation and impact. “NESP created a plan for us to evaluate our effectiveness – they sat down with us one-on-one and talked with us about our organization, including everything from what we wanted to learn from the evaluation, to what our capabilities were for gathering the necessary information,” said Erin Stratford-Owens, Executive Director of the Barnabas Network. “The NESP team created a quality impact assessment that we will be able to use and modify as our systems, goals, and strategy shift through time.”
This fall, NESP coordinated with the Guilford Nonprofit Consortium to offer various professional development and educational opportunities to nonprofit staff in the Triad. In August and September 2014 they facilitated educational workshops that focused on program improvement through evaluation, types of program evaluation methodology, data and decision making/storytelling, and a range of evaluative support options offered by NESP. Feedback from workshop participants will be used to plan future programs.
NESP’s ongoing workshop schedule is currently under development in collaboration with community and organizational leaders. More workshops will be available in Spring 2015. Registration for all events will be made available at http://guilfordnonprofits.org/calendar/.
Request a One Hour Consultation
NESP can assist a limited number of organizations with various components of the evaluation process. Some areas where NESP can provide assistance include:
- planning needs assessments
- strategic planning for grant applications
- indicator development
- instrument selection
- framing evaluation questions
- collecting and analyzing data
- database reporting
- internal capacity building
- providing evaluative feedback
Any nonprofit or community-based organization interested in scheduling a one hour, introductory consultation with members of the NESP team to discuss program evaluation, data collection, evaluation capacity building, or other evaluation services can contact NESP through the UNCG Referral Desk:
Learn more about NESP by visiting their website at nesp.uncg.edu.
Written by Kristin Medlin, UNCG Institute for Community & Economic Engagement