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Writing an evaluation brief

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Use this page to learn about what you need to know before you start to write your evaluation brief and what to include once you get started.

If you choose to commission an evaluation, you’ll need to write an evaluation brief.

This is a short document – perhaps two to four sides of A4 – which can be sent to any consultants being asked to bid for the work. It sets out what you want from the evaluation.

Providing potential consultants with an evaluation brief makes sure they have the information needed to make relevant changes to a proposal to meet your needs.

Before writing the brief

This section looks at what to consider before you start writing your evaluation brief. This is to make sure it is accurate and clearly represents what your work is about.

Being clear on the purpose of the evaluation

Make sure you know why you want to carry out the evaluation.

  • Is it needed to report to a funder?
  • Is it to help strategic planning?
  • Do you want it to help you develop and improve services?

Once you’re clear on the purpose, you can decide on its focus.

Decide on the focus of the work

Think about the questions you’d like the evaluation to help answer.

  • Do you want the evaluation to focus on a specific project or service?
  • Are you looking to find out about outcomes for a specific set of stakeholders?

If you’re not entirely sure about your focus, outlining the questions you’d like answered is a good starting point for a discussion between you and the consultant.

This will help you figure out what’s appropriate for your needs and budget.

There may be a number of things you want to find out so it would be good to think about all the possibilities and then prioritise them.

Your budget and/or timescale may mean not all questions can be answered.

Knowing your audience

Think about who will read the evaluation findings and what their interests in them will be.

This will help the consultant to adapt the evaluation methods and reporting appropriately.

Decide who will do the work

Do you want all the work done externally, or will some be done internally?

You should take into consideration evaluation work and associated administration (venue hire, sending out questionnaires, for example).

Providing internal support will keep your costs down, but make sure you have properly resourced this based on the proposed timetable for the work.

Any delays or failure to provide information to the consultant may affect the quality of the results the consultant can deliver.

Create regular communication channels

Your work doesn’t stop when you’ve successfully engaged a consultant. It’s important you work closely with them to make sure you get what you need from the evaluation.

Make sure you have one named person who will take responsibility for the work, and who will be the contact point for the consultant and for anyone involved internally.

Consider an evaluation advisory group

For larger evaluations, an advisory group can help to steer an evaluation and support the consultant. Remember to consider the logistics and budget required.

It’s good practice to invite people who use your service into the group. You may also include:

  • staff members
  • volunteers
  • funders
  • trustees and other stakeholders.

Decide on your selection process

If you’re approaching several consultants and you receive more than one proposal, you’ll need to choose between them.

Consider your process for this. If you have time, it can be helpful to interview consultants.

Make sure you ask for all main team members to attend an interview so you get to meet the people you may be working with.

Leave time for consultants to ask questions

Remember that consultants may have questions about your brief or want to speak to you about the evaluation in more detail. Try to set aside some time for this.

Considering any issues affecting the evaluation

Do you want the evaluation to reflect particular organisational values? For example, you may want the evaluators to take a participatory approach to work with users, by consulting them as part of the evaluation.

Has any evaluation of this work happened recently? When? What worked well about this, and what could have been improved?

The content of the brief

This content looks at what you can/should/must include when writing your evaluation brief.

Provide background information

  • Give a basic outline of your organisation.
  • Write out the purpose of the evaluation
  • If you want to evaluate a specific project or programme, provide an overview of it including its aims and outcomes.
  • Write the questions you would like the evaluation to answer.
  • Explain the focus and purpose of the work, and who will use the findings.
  • Where possible, include any supporting documents which may help with understanding, for example, business plans, theory of change, and evaluation framework.

Describe the key deliverables

Describe what you expect the consultant to produce. For example:

  • a report with recommendations
  • infographics
  • a presentation.

Remember any outputs should be adapted to their intended audience and what their interests are.

Outline the timing of the evaluation

This should include key milestones and deadlines if you have a specific timeline in mind.

  • Explain when you would like the work carried out and completed. Giving as much notice of the start date as possible will increase the chance of a consultant getting involved. Try to give them at least three months’ notice - longer is better.
  • Is there any flexibility in timing? The more flexible you can be the greater the chance a consultant will be able to work with you.
  • If you have specific deliverables such as an interim report or project updates, outline when you would like to receive them.

Describe the data collection

  • Outline what data is available for the consultant to review as part of the evaluation. Note what type of data has been collected:
    • (quantitative, qualitative or both)
    • how much data there is
    • where it’s stored
    • what tools (for example, surveys, interviews or monitoring forms) were used to collect it.
  • Are there any other sources of information? There may be previous evaluation reports or other paperwork the consultant will need to read.
  • Who would you like the consultant to collect additional data from?
  • Are there any constraints on data collection that the consultant should be aware of? For example, will there be difficulties with contacting or communicating with users?
  • Ask about the consultant’s data protection processes and compliance with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
  • Be clear about your internal safeguarding policies and what’s required of the consultant. For example, do they need to have a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check to be able to interview your clients?

Outline internal responsibilities and points of contact

  • Explain who will be the point of contact with the consultant.
  • If there’s any work to carry out internally, describe what that is For example, collecting and collating data, or administration work.
  • Detail what meetings (liaison, advisory or steering group) meetings there will be.

Describe what skills and knowledge you need

  • What skills, knowledge and values do you want proposals to be able to demonstrate?
  • Ask the consultant to mention who will be involved in the work, and what each team member will be doing.
  • Get CVs, examples of work and perhaps follow-up references of consultants before agreeing to work with them.

Outline the selection process

If you’re inviting proposals from a number of consultants, outline the timetable for your selection process.

If you’re interviewing consultants, giving the date in advance is helpful.

Giving details of the budget

  • Be as specific as possible about your budget, it’ll help potential consultants assess whether they’re able to help you and tailor their proposal accordingly, saving you time and improving the quality of the proposals you receive.
  • Any internal support you provide can bring down the cost.
  • Remember to make clear if the budget includes expenses and Value Added Tax (VAT) – this can make a difference.
  • Say what financial information you want consultants to give you – for example, the day rate for each team member and the number of days they’ll spend on the work.

Read our guidance on what to consider when creating an evaluation budget.

Last reviewed: 18 September 2023

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This page was last reviewed for accuracy on 18 September 2023

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