How to evaluate your project
A project is not complete until you have evaluated it; looking at what has worked, what hasn’t worked, considering why and enabling this knowledge to be used next time.
If you have received grant funding you will almost certainly be required to submit an evaluation of the project to funders. It is very difficult to evaluate retrospectively, especially for a long or complicated project. So, it’s best to start early... and plan for your evaluation right from the beginning.
Heritage Lottery Fund: tips and tools for evaluation
Joseph Rowntree Foundation: evaluating community projects
Recording with photographs
We recommend taking photos right through the project with before and afters. We have visited projects that have had photo books printed at the end of a project, visually recording the whole journey. Today, there are also pleny of apps available for your smartphones and tablets, which allow you to record a photo or video a day which can be easily merged into a photo album or video.
In order to evaluate your project there must be clear objectives and goals. These may be dates (for planning and preparation), financial (for fundraising) or key stages (for building work).
Whatever they are, all your objectives should be SMART:
- specific: who, what, where, when, which, why
- measurable: how know when each objective is achieved
- attainable: ensure each objective is realistic within your project, timetable and budget
- relevant: ensure each objective is in line with the others, driving the project forward
- time bound: setting a timetable stops the project slipping and being overtaken by day to day issues
Types of evaluation
You should try and evaluate your project: whilst it is happening, in order to make small adjustments and tweaks; at completion of the major works, to evaluate the process and experience: and, after a set period of time, to assess more long term impact.
Ongoing evaluation may seem like an unnecessary additional task if you are already short of time and resources. But it can help to keep your project team enthused and focused, to check progress against goals and timetables and to prepare reports for funders and other supporters.
Your ongoing evaluations may include financial checks and measures, regular site inspections and evaluating potential opportunities for added works as and when they arrive.
Project completion evaluation
A comprehensive evaluation of your project, what happened and what changed is a great legacy to leave alongside the actual building work. It will give those who come after you the knowledge you as the project team have in your heads... just think how useful and interesting it would have been to have the rationale and process behind adding your 15th century tower (for example).
Your project completion evaluation will probably include all reports from your architect and contractors, as well as full financial information and project management reports. It should be sent to all major funders of the project.
Long term evaluation
Long term evaluation is more about the impact of your project on the people within your church and community. It is much more subjective, and is best achieved by asking open questions about the project before, during, and then some time after completion.
Your long term evaluation will probably be more difficult to quantify in a report, however it is these long term and sustainable benefits which funders are often most interested in so try and capture them.