There’s a joke that travels around the nonprofit world and it goes like this: One Sunday afternoon, an Executive Director gets a phone call telling her that there has been a small fire in her office due to an electrical malfunction. She quickly calls her Development Director, with whom she shares an office, so that they can meet to survey the damage. One her way to her office, the ED panics when she remembers giving a large donation check to her officemate and is worried that the check may have been destroyed in the fire.
When they both arrive the ED runs over to the Development Director and asks, “Did you deposit the check in the bank Friday afternoon?”
“No worries,” replied the DD. “I hid the check so I could take care of it on Monday.”
“So, where did you hide it?” “Someplace where no one would ever find it: in the storage closet, stuck inside that binder — the one holding that last evaluation report!”
So, does that sound familiar to you? As a nonprofit leader, what’s become of your last evaluation report? If you’re a nonprofit evaluator, do your reports yield easy-to-read and relevant information? Are those findings being used?
If this scenario does sound familiar, perhaps you would interested in learning more about reporting and communicating evaluation findings. Here are some principles to consider as you develop more effective strategies:
• Target Your Audience: Think about and identify all your stakeholders. What kinds of information do they want and need? How do they view program effectiveness? How would they be using the information?
• Develop a communications plan: Think about your stakeholders and their preferences for receiving information, and when is the optimal time to communicate the evaluation findings. How much funding is available for communicating/reporting and how should the money be spent?
• Layer your content: This involves giving your stakeholders different options in how deep or how shallow they want to go into the evaluation findings.
• Reorder your key messages: Remember it’s likely your primary stakeholders will be managers whose focus is on decision making and taking action. Structure your reports and presentations so that recommendations and action plans are upfront and then go into more detail about how you arrived at those conclusions.
Yes, I have lots of experience in producing those reports that end up in a storage closet and have learned a great deal from this book, “A Short Primer on Innovative Evaluation Reporting”, (Hutchinson, K., 2017). It’s a fun read and I highly recommend it. Also, come to the CNPE training entitled Communicating Evaluation Findings on November 8, from 9:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m., for more information and hands-on practice.