Why Aren't Evaluations Working and What to Do About it: A Framework for Negotiating Meaningful Evaluation in Nonprofits

Kellie Liket, Karen Maas, M Rey Garcia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

82 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Nonprofit organizations are under great pressure to use evaluations to show that their programs “work” and that they are “effective.” However, empirical evidence indicates that nonprofits struggle to perform useful evaluations, especially when conducted under accountability pressures. An increasing body of evidence highlights the crucial role of a participatory negotiation process between nonprofits and stakeholders on the purpose and design of evaluations in achieving evaluation utility. However, conceptual confusion about the evaluation objectives, unclear evaluation purposes, a lack of appropriate evaluation questions, and normative ideas about superior evaluation designs and methods, complicate the process. In response, we provide practical conceptualizations of the central objectives of evaluations and propose a framework that can guide negotiation processes. It presents the relationships between the evaluation purpose, evaluation question, and the different levels of effects that should be measured. The selection of the evaluation method is contingent on the choices made within this framework.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)171-188
Number of pages18
JournalAmerican Journal of Evaluation
Volume35
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2014

Research programs

  • EUR ESE 30
  • EUR ESE 33

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