Learning about evaluation
ARC is dedicated to helping programs meet their evaluation needs. Below are some links and resources we hope you will find informative and useful. If you have other questions, please feel free to contact us and we will be glad to help.
Questions to answer before beginning an evaluation
1. What is program evaluation?
Formative evaluation helps mentoring programs understand how program implementation relates to participants' experiences. Outcome evaluations focus more on assessing the benefits youth are deriving. ARC recommends preceding any outcome evaluation with a formative evaluation if at all possible. Findings from a formative evaluation can highlight ways to optimize implementation and focus an outcome evaluation. Negative findings from an outcome evaluation are an inefficient and frustrating way to learn that the programming needs to improve!
2. How can evaluation be a cost-effective tool?
An evaluation is cost-effective when a budget that includes one helps a program make more good matches than a budget that does not. ARC partners closely with each evaluation client to learn about the program, help practitioners understand what's working well and what can be improved, and demonstrate successes. An ARC evaluation helps programs become more efficient, effective, and competitive for funding.
3. How much evaluation do you need?
Unless fulfilling an evaluation requirement or seeking to attract government or foundation funding, programs benefit most from program evaluations done at regular intervals (every 3-5 years) to ensure that services are as effective as they should be. Between these evaluations, programs should monitor their matches to ensure that match quality remains high. ARC identifies and recommends the least expensive approach for each client. We will not take on a project we believe would waste a program's money.
4. Why work with an external evaluator?
Whether you decide to work with ARC or not, it is in your program's best interests to conduct an external evaluation, which means making sure an objective expert designs and oversees it. Evaluators with inadequate education or experience can place programs at risk for serious practical and ethical problems, including: failing to identify and demonstrate positive outcomes; basing programmatic decisions on inaccurate findings; and, eroding grantor confidence by presenting untenable findings. Hiring an evaluation specialist can be more expensive than keeping an evaluation in-house, but the costs of not doing so can be prohibitive.
Program Evaluation Links
Resources Specifically Designed for Mentoring Programs