If you are now at the Monitoring and Evaluation stage of your program planning process, congratulations! You have now entered the final phase of your program planning process.
As a nonprofit organization, calculating every step you take to maximize the impact of your program must be high on your priority list. This makes it easier to stretch limited resources and reach the beneficiaries of your organization either directly or indirectly. One of the best ways to keep a track of all your progress to see if your programs are headed in the right direction is by evaluating and monitoring your every move.
In this blog, we will discuss what evaluation and monitoring are, the benefits of their implementation and how you can integrate them into your program assessment strategy.
What Is Monitoring?
Monitoring is an ongoing process of systematic collection, analysis, and use of data to track a program's progress toward its goals and to assist in decision making. Processes, including when and where activities occur, who provides them, and the number of people or entities they reach, are usually the subjects of monitoring.
Monitoring begins when a program is launched and extends throughout the program's implementation. Process, performance, and formative evaluation are all terms used to describe monitoring.
3 key questions on monitoring to answer:
- Is the program reaching its target audience?
- Was the program successfully implemented?
- Do any program adjustments need to be made as a result of the data collected?
What Is Evaluation?
An evaluation of a program focuses on the effectiveness of the project and is mostly used to identify whether recipients have benefited from the activities. It focuses on outcomes, determining whether there was a change between the start and end of a program (or during the implementation of the program). That change should, ideally, be linked to the activities carried out.
An evaluation should give credible, reliable, and valuable evidence-based information. The findings, recommendations, and lessons learned from an assessment should be used to guide future program decision-making.
3 key questions on evaluation to answer:
- Did your program have a beneficial impact on your target audience?
- How much of the observed changes can be attributable to your project?
- What factors played a role in the program's success?
Together, Monitoring and evaluation (also known as M&E) is the process of collecting and analyzing data to determine the performance of an initiative and optimize its results for future projects.
Benefits of monitoring and evaluation (M&E)
If done right, the process of monitoring and evaluation can be beneficial for everyone involved in the program and all the stakeholders of an organization. This collected data can be analyzed and used as a blueprint for strategic decision-making simultaneously as the program is panning out or after its execution.
Here’s how each stakeholder faction can benefit from Monitoring and evaluation.
Management: For managers and top executives, the M&E processes will help determine adjustments to the strategies and programs. This will make management more streamlined and data-driven and making changes will become more flexible.
Donors: Excellent execution of the M&E process will allow you to track expenditure, providing transparency to your donors and giving your organization credibility on the impact delivered.
Beneficiaries: Assessing the success of your programs in terms of the number of beneficiaries catered to in real-time, where or what needs modification to reach more people can be determined through monitoring and evaluation. This will lead to improved efficiency of execution as well as implementation design.
Staff members: When there are clear metrics and statics to provide clarity and information on the project and a plan is clearly communicated to all your employees and volunteers, they will be able to trust in your organization better and feel a sense of commitment to the purpose that your organization is working toward.
Creating an M&E Strategy
One of the first steps is to gather the data you want to analyze. The data you collect needs to be hyper-focused on the goals and outcomes of your program. A tool would make the process easier and help you monitor your impact. The tools we suggest are Google Sheets or Microsoft Excel and tableau.
Note: When there are modifications in the program that affect the original plans, it is critical to update the M&E plan.
In addition to monitoring and evaluation, the concepts of accountability and continuous learning are also being clubbed together. The abbreviation “MEAL” is often called to mind when referring to this process.
Data-driven methods, when used to improve the efficiency of the outcome and impact of projects can rely on the MEAL system. In other words, Data from monitoring and evaluation should be a constant source to inform management decisions, promote accountability and use the process for learning.
Accountability: Projects that are carried out with due accountability are more significant and likely to receive support from stakeholders. They also have a stronger impact in the long run. Project teams must proactively make efforts to fulfill the needs of key stakeholders while delivering intended results. Accountability is embraced in projects via:
- Transparent communications: Sharing monitoring and evaluation information and their results with communities, partners, donors, and other stakeholders.
- Alignment with standards: Demonstrating that the project was carried out in accordance with agreed-upon donor conditions and MEAL best practices.
- Responsiveness: Creating avenues for stakeholders to express feedback, ideas, suggestions, and concerns, as well as promising to respond appropriately to how their input is influencing project decisions.
- Participation: Encouraging contributions in various forms from all stakeholders in initiating, defining parameters for, and conducting MEAL.
Learning: In order to reach your stated objectives, you must engage everyone involved in the project in a critical analysis of what is working and what is not working. Having in place a culture and mechanisms that allow for thoughtful reflection. The goal of education is the ability to make better decisions. The format and content of these discussions should be informed by monitoring and evaluation data. you can learn from your projects by:
- Incentivizing learning: By encouraging, and rewarding learning, all project effort becomes a learning opportunity.
- Encouraging a spirit of curiosity: Creating an environment that encourages people to ask questions, be curious, and keep an open mind to learning.
- Include concrete learning: Aspects such as the use of checklists to motivate learning, Q&A sessions in meeting agenda, to embed learning processes.
- Responsive management: By definition, it is regularly analyzing, monitoring, and evaluating data, actively striving to comprehend project data, and using evidence to influence project design, planning, and implementation decisions.
- Sharing information: Using project learning to inform organizational and sectoral best practices.
A strong M&E program is a long-term instrument that can aid in improving the implementation of current programs as well as informing decisions about new ones. Integrating MEAL into your plans can aid in program effectiveness by highlighting important implementation gaps. As a result, each round of MEAL aids organizations in reaching out to more individuals and having a stronger impact.
Chezuba is an online platform that connects volunteers with apt skills to nonprofits that can benefit from the knowledge these philanthropic professionals have to offer. With over 7000 successfully completed projects, we believe your organization can benefit too. Post a project with Chezuba today!