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What is evaluation?

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Use this page to understand what evaluation is and why it's important for your organisation.

Defining evaluation

Evaluation is about working through a structured process to help you learn and make decisions about your work. It involves gathering data to help you understand:

  • the way the work was designed
  • how the work was put into effect (implementation)
  • the results from a piece of work.

You can then use this knowledge to:

  • make judgements about how well a given area of work is doing
  • learn about what differences you’re making through your work
  • help to inform decision-making.

You can evaluate a project, programme, service or organisation. You can also evaluate campaigns, strategies and processes.

The cycle of evaluation

Evaluation is part of a cycle that involves:

  • Planning your evaluation
  • Collecting your data
  • Assessing your data
  • Reviewing your findings and putting them into practice.

Why evaluation is important

Evaluation has many benefits for voluntary organisations.

  • Develop strategy and organisational plans: Evaluation will help you focus your organisation’s strategy and plan how to use your resources (staff, budgets and volunteers) efficiently.
  • Make your work more effective: Through evaluation, you can identify where your work is most effective, and where you might change or develop. This can help you improve services and programmes so you can make a bigger difference for the people and communities you work with.
  • Report to funders and attract further funding: Those funding, commissioning or investing in voluntary organisations increasingly ask about the difference organisations have made – not just what they’ve delivered. Collecting evidence of your outcomes and impact can also help build a case to attract further funding.
  • Improve your communications: Evaluation findings can help you communicate with your organisation’s key audiences. You could share your findings to engage current or potential donors, or to increase public understanding of what you achieve. You might also be able to use your data for lobbying or campaigning.
  • Motivate staff and volunteers: Seeing evidence of what their work has achieved can boost staff and volunteer morale, generating a sense of shared purpose.
  • Learn and share: Through evaluation, you can learn more about what works and share this externally. This helps to improve practice across the sector.

Now that you’re familiar with what evaluation is, read our guidance on the evaluation process.

Last reviewed: 18 September 2023

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This page was last reviewed for accuracy on 18 September 2023

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