How to Conduct an In-House Evaluation of Your Grant Application
When you plan to conduct an internal evaluation of your grant application — meaning you aren’t hiring an outsider to assist with or conduct the evaluation of your project — the best option is to propose a stakeholder’s evaluation in the evaluation plan of your program design.
In a stakeholder’s evaluation, you don’t need to identify the evaluators until you know your project is funded. You can then identify select stakeholders from your target population, board of directors, and community partners to sit on the evaluation team.
The easiest way to identify your project’s stakeholders is to ask yourself the following question: “Who has a vested interest in our project and will be impacted by the project’s success?” The outcome of the project definitely matters to your board of directors, if you have one, as well as to the staff assigned to work on the project. However, it matters most to the project’s target population.
A clue as to when you may need to propose a stakeholder’s evaluation can be found in the grant application’s budget instructions. If the budget instructions for the grant or cooperative agreement don’t include a specific line item for evaluation or contracted services, and if your program implementation costs will require all the available grant funding, consider a stakeholder’s evaluation.
It’s less costly and keeps the entire evaluation process local and manageable. For example, suppose your organization proposes to operate a homeless shelter for veterans returning from overseas combat. The grantor requires that all proposed homeless prevention plans originate from the feedback collected at public meetings.
At your public meetings, have a sign-in sheet that captures each attendee’s name, mailing address, telephone number, and e-mail address, as well as whether the person is a veteran or has a family member who’s a veteran or on active duty. Each and every citizen who attends your public meeting and provides input on the need for housing for homeless veterans is a potential candidate for the evaluation team.
Be creative and bring together people who have different perspectives. Sometimes, opposing views bring out additional needs that weren’t identified during the public meetings; having one or two devil’s advocates on any team, including the evaluation team, can be good for flushing out the real needs and forcing team members to rethink their positions.
The number of people you have on your stakeholder’s evaluation team doesn’t matter as long as everyone’s point of view is welcomed, considered, and incorporated into your final intervention or prevention methodology for serving the target population.
Do you have board members who have wanted to work with your organization in a more hands-on way but who you’re afraid will try to micromanage the program? Placing them on the evaluation team is an ideal way to divert their energy. They can really help shape the outcome of your grant-funded program — a program that may very well be the most important part of your organization.
When it comes to an internal evaluation team, you’re not looking for groupthink. You want independent-minded people who can bring objective ideas to the table, giving you a credible evaluation process for your funded project.