Why Evaluation Is Worth It
You need to reserve some room within your next RFP for an evaluation component. This oft-overlooked piece in a proposal need not take up much space, need not be expensive to include, and can greatly increase the likelihood that you will be funded. Plus, more and more funders are requiring the inclusion of an evaluation component for a proposal to even be considered (e.g., the National Science Foundation).
Many hesitate to include evaluation because they don’t really understand its value. If you were going to invest five thousand dollars into an energy-saving A/C unit, wouldn’t you like to know you were actually saving energy? Of course you would. You’d do something like monitor your bills. Anything worth investing in is worth monitoring.
Often people have a pre-conceived notion that evaluators are a bunch of data nerds who will throw piles of spreadsheets at them. In defense of data nerds everywhere, we want to be of service to you. We don’t want our data to stay in a vacuum. I assure you, spreadsheets are merely tools. If you want spreadsheets, we can provide them, but we do much more. Evaluators empower your team with formative data to allow for mid-point corrections or adjustments. We can help you with your chores (i.e., writing progress reports). One of our favorite evaluation services offered is translating data and findings into attractive, easy-to-understand briefs for our clients to share with a broad audience.
Some hesitate because they assume it will be inordinately expensive. I suggest you shop around, because this is not necessarily the case. Many companies, including RFL, offer a menu of evaluation options, so something will inevitably suit your budget. It is not uncommon for evaluation activities to average about 15-20% of a total project budget. The American Evaluation Association (AEA) is a valuable resource for finding top-notch evaluators, but even an online search will get you started. And don’t forget about the power of word-of-mouth. Ask others who have worked with evaluators whom they recommend.
Many worry about having to write the evaluation portion of a grant. The good news is that many evaluation companies—including RFL—will write themselves into the grant at no cost to you. If you can find evaluation services at a company designated as a Historically Underserved Business (HUB)—as RFL is—it can often earn your proposal extra points. In fact, many RFPs now require a HUB plan.
So, as you tackle your next RFP, I encourage you to call up an evaluator. We can make your applications more attractive to funders, we can lighten your writing load, and our services can positively impact your mission. We welcome the opportunity to collaborate with you.
By Dr. Lisa McCulley, Director of Research, Evaluation, and Assessment