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Global Interdependence Initiative
CONTINUOUS PROGRESS Better Advocacy Through Evaluation
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“It's the rare foundation that understands that evaluation needs to be included in the grant writing process, and even so, they don't really understand that evaluation will cost money. But a good evaluation can easily be 5-10 percent of the total project budget, and very few foundations recognize that.”
— Phil Sparks, Communications Consortium Media Center

EXAMPLES

The paper “Lessons in Evaluation Communications Campaigns” presents five evaluation case studies that are designed to serve as illustrations for how to evaluate organized communications efforts. These case studies present campaigns that have already faced and dealt with difficult evaluation choices and challenges. Each chose a different evaluation approach... Read more »

Budgeting and Human Resources for Evaluation

Allocating funds to evaluation may seem less important than spending money on advocacy activities. But organizations dedicated to learning from evaluation find that the cost-benefit analysis works fully in their favor in the long term if they plan for evaluation and take it seriously. Planning makes for better, more efficient campaigns; and planning makes for easier and better evaluation.

The key to good use of financial and human resources is to strike the optimal balance between the effectiveness of the evaluation and your limited resources. Too much evaluation can become difficult to manage and time consuming; too little evaluation may not allow for the critical feedback you need to improve your campaign and your results.

The following are three potential resource allocation and budgeting models. Note that the first and second models use staff salaries as the basis for an evaluation budget. The third uses a flat consultant rate for budgeting.


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Designation Model: discrete staff as evaluators
Under this model, an organization designates staff members as evaluators. Depending on the scale of your activities, this could be as little as one key person dedicating all (or part) of his or her time to evaluation or a large team. These staff member(s) are the drivers of the evaluation, responsible for monitoring, collecting and analyzing data and reporting the results back to the practitioners in a constructive manner. Under this model, a healthy campaign could devote 100 percent of two staff member's time to evaluation.


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Teamwork model: advocacy staff as evaluators
This model shifts more of the evaluation responsibility to the team of advocacy practitioners by appointing one central evaluation coordinator (time allocation depends on scale of advocacy efforts) and dedicating a small portion of all advocacy staff's time to evaluation. This model requires significant planning up front. Under this model, the staff's advocacy work is integrated with the evaluation activities while the campaign is ongoing, yielding in many cases more bang for the buck. The coordinator receives all of the information collected by staff and compiles the formative reports for the organization or coalition.

The success of this model depends on an organization's ability to decrease the evaluation workload by making evaluation part of the programmatic activities. For example, maybe an interview with a congressional staffer for a podcast on the campaign Web site could also double as an indicator: a case study on how a congressional leader responds to advocacy activities. A grassroots activist's blog entries on the campaign Web site could provide data about capacity building at local levels.

One cautionary note about this model: make sure staff members have enough training in basic qualitative and quantitative evaluation methods to prevent bias and ensure quality evaluation results. Under this model, a human-resources allocation may devote nearly all of one staff member's time to managing the evaluation activities while another 10 staff members would devote 5 percent of their time to evaluation.


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External Model: consultant as evaluator
This model uses an external consultant to answer questions that you have about the effectiveness of your advocacy activities. This model does not rely on staff to carry out evaluation activities and has the benefit of bringing some “fresh eyes” to your efforts. Of course, this approach requires careful planning in partnership with the evaluator and your donors to make sure you agree on what data is needed as a baseline and what indicators the consultant should be looking for. Evaluation consultants generally will interact with staff members to collect data, thus indirectly using a smaller amount of staff time for the evaluation activities. Nonetheless, this model should reduce the organizational stress of monitoring and evaluating while conducting an advocacy campaign.


TIPS

  • Have a meaningful discussion with your funder or funders. Try to come to a mutual understanding about what should be evaluated to improve your advocacy efforts and move toward long-term results. Decide together the amount of resources that should be allocated to evaluation. This is much easier than playing a “guessing game” about how many resources to allocate toward evaluation and what to evaluate.
  • As a rule of thumb, your budget for evaluation should be approximately 5-10 percent of the total advocacy campaign budget.
  • Be creative: Save by doubling up. Think of ways that advocacy activities can double as qualitative or quantitative indicators for assessing progress toward benchmarks. For example, recording a public hearing for the campaign Web site can serve as a qualitative indicator of congressional attitudes toward an issue—and this data can be collected by an advocacy practitioner.
  • Lack of planning for evaluation can cause stress for staff members if roles, responsibility and time allocations are not determined at the start of the advocacy efforts. Failure to plan for evaluation and adding it on as an extra task in a proposal will only create additional work for staff and will be of little value for you or a funder.
  • When dealing with limited resources, think carefully about what to evaluate. Remember, evaluation can be very time consuming; dedicate the time to monitoring and evaluating those aspects of the campaign that will be most useful in shaping and directing it.