Level Best: How Small and Grassroots Nonprofits Can Tackle Evaluation and Talk Results
October 2006, Jossey-Bass
How to Use This Book.
Instruction with Samples and Examples.
1 Understanding Evaluation.
Evaluation as Power Instead of Pain.
What Evaluation Is and What It Is Not.
2 A Simple Evaluation Framework.
The Basic Evaluation Framework.
Key Concepts:What to Evaluate and How to Get Started.
The Rolling Evaluation Method.
3 Planning Your Evaluation.
A Quick Review of Basic Organizational Readiness.
Definition of an Effective Organization.
What You Plan Affects What You Learn.
Step by Step: Planning Your Evaluation.
Understanding Funders’Needs and Fitting Them into Your Evaluation Plan.
Why Setting Goals Makes Evaluation Easier.
How You Can Prepare.
4 Asking the Right Questions.
Clear Program Goals Guide Evaluation Questions and Choices.
What to Evaluate:What You Do Versus What Your Constituents Do.
If or Then:Which to Evaluate?
The Relationship Between Evaluating What You Do (Process) and What They Do (Outcome).
Determine the Right Questions.
Ask What You Really Want to Know.
How Advocacy Organizations Can Approach Evaluation.
How to Be Answerable When Advocacy and Organizing Are Your Agenda.
Ideas for Measuring Organizing Efforts.
5 Tracking Information.
Options for Tracking Information.
The Right Goal Statement Helps Determine the Right Things to Track.
6 Learning From and Using the Information.
Making Use of Your Information.
Organizing Your Information.
Using What You Learn.
Sharing Your Evaluation Results with the Outside World.
Feeding Results into the Cycle of Planning.
Tying Evaluation into Planning.
Deciding Where to Begin.
Incorporating Evaluation into Your Strategic Planning Process.
A Commonly Used Terms and Their Definitions.
B Types of Evaluation.
C Sample Completed Evaluation Planning Worksheet.
D Sample Evaluation Report Outline.
E Program Evaluation Standards.
About the Authors.
Marianne Philbin is a writer, trainer, and consultant specializing in nonprofit organizational development.She has worked for a wide range of foundations and nonprofit organizations, and has an extensive background in grantmaking, fundraising, and nonprofit management. She is an instructor for the Donors Forum of Chicago and a lecturer at Northwestern University's School of Continuing Studies.
—Eric Delli Bovi, development director, Old Town School of Folk Music, Chicago, Illinois
"We are under pressure every day—not only to perform at
the highest level—but to prove that what we are doing nets
the greatest possible results. Of all the resources I’ve
consulted on evaluation. Level Best is the most practical,
the most readable, and the most supportive. The authors understand
not only how great our challenges are, but how little time we have
for anything that does not address our real needs—which this
—Ruth Barrett Rendler, deputy director, The Center for Victims of Torture, Minneapolis, Minnesota
"So many guides to evaluation are theoretical or academic in
nature, reflecting little understanding of the operating realities
of smaller or more grassroots-oriented nonprofits. The authors of
Level Best know this territory intimately, and their guide
to evaluation offers solid guidance, clear direction, and practical
applications for effective planning and program development."
—Daranee Petsod, executive director, Grantmakers Concerned with Immigrants and Refugees, Sebastopol, California
"Every day I see smaller nonprofits struggling to graft onto
their work evaluation procedures that in one way or another just
aren’t a good match for them. The authors of Level
Best have created a guide which avoids jargon and
overcomplicated systems by simplifying and clarifying the process
for smaller and newer groups. It will be a much-used and
—Susannah Quem Pratt, coordinator of evaluation, Lilly Endowment’s Religion Division