Should I Hire an External Consultant for Nonprofit Program Evaluation?

March 12, 2018

Two shadow figures shaking hands in front of a signed documentA nonprofit should engage in organizational evaluation to ensure that all financial resources and human capital are being used toward fulfilling its mission. Defined, cost-effective procedures must be used for evaluating, both qualitatively and quantitatively, programs and projects in relation to mission. These procedures should address programmatic efficiency and effectiveness, outcomes for program participants, and the relationship of these outcomes to the cost of achieving them.

Evaluations should include input from program participants and should monitor the satisfaction of participants. They should be candid and should be used by leadership to strengthen the organization’s effectiveness, and, when necessary, be used to make programmatic changes.

As the Standards for Excellence: An Ethics and Accountability Code for the Nonprofit Sector states, “a nonprofit should engage in organizational evaluation to ensure that all financial resources and human capital are being used toward fulfilling its mission.” Nonprofit leaders should carefully consider how much effort is expended on the organization’s various program areas.

If you do not have the internal capacity (time or expertise) to evaluate your programs, you may want to consider outsourcing your program evaluation.

Some questions you might want to ask yourself if you’re considering hiring an external consultant are:

1.    What are the reasons you are unable to internally evaluate your programs and can those reasons be fixed with external help?

2.    Does one of your current staff, volunteers or board members have some expertise or knowledge in this area and could help you select the right consultant and scope out the job?

3.    Are you ready to evaluate all our programs and the data you collect (not just those that require a grant report?)

4.    Do you have the time to manage an external consultant, provide timely information and feedback, and get the most for your money?

5.    Are you willing and able to implement any changes recommended by the consultant? 

6.    Will you use the consultant to put in place a framework and procedures that you will implement, or will you need the consultant to implement the evaluation and provide reports? This will determine what type of consultant you need and how much it will cost you. 

If you’ve answered the questions above and you’re ready to hire, please check out the online directory of Standards for Excellence Licensed Consultants.

Our Program Evaluation educational resource packet explains why program evaluation is important, where evaluation fits in to the program cycle, and various approaches to evaluation. A list of resources at the end leads you to more in-depth information for designing and completing your own evaluations and/or for working with professional evaluators. For access to our Program Evaluation Educational Resource Packet and other resources, join the Standards for Excellence Institute. Located in Maryland? Join Maryland Nonprofits for these resources and more!

From the Standards for Excellence®: An Ethics and Accountability Code for the Nonprofit Sector. The Standards for Excellence code, developed by the Standards for Excellence Institute, includes specific benchmarks and measures that provide a structured approach to building capacity, accountability, and sustainability in your nonprofit organization. The code identifies 6 major areas of nonprofit governance and management: Mission, Strategy, and Evaluation; Leadership: Board, Staff, and Volunteers; Legal Compliance and Ethics; Finance and Operations; Resource Development and Fundraising; and Public Awareness, Engagement and Advocacy.

The Standards for Excellence® Institute, a program of Maryland Nonprofits, provides the best possible resources to nonprofits nationwide, helping build their capacity to effectively and efficiently meet the needs of their communities. Members of the Standards for Excellence Institute gain access to an online community with an expansive library of resources and customizable templates. The Institute also offers nonprofit accreditation and recognition, a national network of consultants licensed to provide training on the Code, and professional volunteer opportunities.