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How-To Guide: Hiring an Evaluator

Hiring an Evaluator

Program evaluation is essential for managing your program. Evaluation can help program directors and program decision-makers understand how activities are tied to specific goals and objectives, as well as how these goals and objectives relate to the program problem or need that the program hopes to address. Although evaluations can be done in-house, program directors may want to employ a qualified evaluator to assist with the process of measuring outcomes or designing an evaluation plan to determine whether a program is achieving its anticipated outcomes. If hiring a qualified evaluator is a viable option, then you should know what characteristics to look for in an evaluator.

Who Is an Evaluator?

You may choose to employ the help of a company or individual to evaluate your program. An evaluator may have received formal training in research and/or evaluation with experience conducting program evaluations. Identifying a qualified candidate may not be simple, however, because there are no licensing or certifications required for program evaluators. Many evaluators are members of professional evaluation organizations such as the American Evaluation Association or the American Educational Research Association. Some of the qualifications to look for are: formal education, experience, evaluation philosophy and communication skills.

What Can an Evaluator Do for You?

A good evaluator is part facilitator, part researcher and part program specialist. A good evaluator can help your program with some or all of the following:

  • Developing a logic model or conceptual model that provides a written description of how your program’s activities and components relate to each other and to the overall goals and objectives.
  • Developing measures to determine whether your program is meeting its goals and objectives.
  • Developing an evaluation design to determine whether your program is having its intended impacts.
  • Designing data-collection forms, procedures and databases to capture and record data collected.
  • Analyzing data, and presenting results and conclusions from the findings.
  • Providing recommendations to the program regarding ways to improve service delivery.

Program directors and staff may be able to perform some of these tasks themselves. However, many programs will benefit from the experience and expertise of a qualified evaluator who can provide as much or as little help needed to carry out evaluation activities successfully. The advantages of hiring an evaluator include their specialized knowledge and ability, objectivity, creditability and perspective. Disadvantages include cost, time or lack of expertise. Program directors must weigh all of these factors carefully when deciding whether to hire a program evaluator.

How to Select an Evaluator?

Carefully review a company’s profile or an individual evaluator’s resume to determine whether the level of experience conducting evaluations of programs similar to yours is sufficient. Check references to determine how well the evaluator worked collaboratively with previous program directors and staff. Also interview the evaluator and ask for samples of the evaluator’s work products. Review these materials to determine if they are written clearly—in a way that is understandable to both you and those with whom you will share the evaluation findings.

What Deliverables Can I Expect from the Evaluator?

It is important to communicate in the beginning what products or support you expect from an evaluator. As a deliverable, you may request periodic reports during the course of the evaluation and a formal report at the end of the evaluation describing the scope of work and findings. Final products might also include a database and data collection products. You may choose to have the evaluator brief others or disseminate the findings.

This page last reviewed on August 19, 2011