Nonprofit Organizations’ Experiences with Evaluation




Emery, Ann K

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The purpose of this study is two-fold: 1) to understand how many nonprofits are working with internal and/or external evaluators and 2) to learn how they describe their experiences working with evaluators. The study involved a secondary analysis of survey data from a national sample of 546 501(c)3 nonprofit organizations. I found that a minority of nonprofits reported working with a professional evaluator: sixteen percent worked with an internal evaluator and twenty-five percent worked with an external evaluator. Of these, more than two-thirds (sixty-nine percent) said the experience was excellent or good. When asked to describe why experiences with external evaluators were either positive or negative, nonprofits named six different types of reasons: 1) the particular evaluator’s prior experience, knowledge, or soft skills; 2) impressions of the evaluation process as a whole; 3) specific aspects of the evaluation’s methods, findings, reports, or recommendations; 4) project management issues, such as the project’s timeframe and communication; 5) collaboration—or a lack of collaboration—with nonprofit staff during the evaluation; and 6) “red flags,” for example, when the evaluation is used for fundraising or marketing rather than for learning and improvement. Taken together, these findings can help evaluators understand what types of approaches and project management styles are most likely to lead to satisfying and productive evaluation engagements with nonprofits.



Nonprofit evaluation, Evaluation, Performance management, Program evaluation, Nonprofits, Experiences with evaluators