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Evaluation is a distinct process, different from reporting to funders and other stakeholders. While reporting is largely an administrative task focused on accountability, evaluation is a strategic process focused on improvement. The evaluation process allows nonprofits to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of delivery of services.

Each nonprofit should use evaluation to measure the impact of its actions, assess how those actions align with its mission, and act upon this information. The public also has a stake in nonprofit performance and is entitled to information regarding organizational results.

Nonprofits should share evaluation results with their constituents and the public as well as use them to continually improve the quality of their processes, programs, and activities.

1. Nonprofits should have a defined, ongoing, systematic, and sustainable process for improving their services, programs, and internal processes, using methods appropriate to the size of the organization.

2. Nonprofit programs should take into account and respond to the experience, needs and satisfaction of the constituents they serve.

3. Nonprofits should conduct program evaluations in ways that are culturally sensitive and appropriate for the community served.

4. An organization’s measurement systems should be practical and useful to improve ongoing processes, activities, and results.

5. Performance measures should be realistic and appropriate to the size and scope of the organization and those it serves.

6. Measurement should include information on outputs, outcomes, impact, and satisfaction with activities and services provided.

7. Performance measures should be specific and based on evidence gathered before, during, and after program development and implementation.

8. Measurements may include both qualitative and quantitative data.

9. Measurements should include data on efficiency and effectiveness.

10. Nonprofit organizations should strive to improve the evaluation skills of staff while contracting with other organizations or consultants to serve as external evaluators when appropriate and feasible.

11. Nonprofits should include realistic evaluation expenses in all project budgets.

12. Personal information collected from individuals through the evaluation process must be kept confidential unless they give consent for its release.

13. Nonprofits should use evaluation results to gauge organizational effectiveness, improve programs and activities, and inform strategic and annual workplans.

14. Nonprofits should share evaluation results with a broad range of constituents to demonstrate the organization’s impact, the community’s ongoing need, and the lessons learned.

15. Nonprofit evaluation should be ongoing for continuous improvement and should include input from a wide variety of stakeholders.

16. Nonprofits should be open to receiving feedback from members of the public who are interested in the organization’s effectiveness.

Note to Readers: Please be aware that certain words have particular meanings in this document.

  • “Must” is used to describe practices required by state or federal law, and is noted with a gavel symbol (An icon of a red gavel); the online version of the Principles and Practices will soon include direct web links to relevant federal and state statutes and reporting forms.
  • “Should” is used to describe highly recommended practices.
  • “Constituents” describes people with a stake in the success of the organization and may include members, neighbors, clients, volunteers, and contributors.