Online Chapters: Evaluation

This is the third is a series of postings of additional chapters on media advice which was not included in the Communications Consortium Media Center’s “Strategic Communications for Nonprofits.” This third and final posting focuses on evaluating nonprofit media and communications campaigns. The electronic chapter on evaluation [pdf] contains a number of principles in approaching media evaluation:

  • There is no “right” or “wrong” way to evaluate communications campaigns.
  • Assessing whether a campaign caused its intended impact is often important – and that is the activity funders tend to focus on – but evaluation for purposes of learning and continuous improvement is also important.
  • Evaluations, like communications campaigns, need to identify up front their purpose and intended audiences.
  • It is best to design the evaluation early and in conjunction with the campaign.
  • Campaign staff members should participate whenever possible in the evaluation’s design as well as its implementation.
  • Sometimes simple things like having a good press list or establishing ongoing professional relationships with key reporters are the most significant measures of success, especially for locality-specific or small-budget efforts.
  • Evaluation should be based on sound (and where possible research-based) theory for predicting how the campaign will achieve social change or provide the public with understanding of the issue.

Increasingly, funders and foundations are requiring nonprofits to include evaluation guidelines in their communicants grant proposals. This chapter, and a special website on evaluation developed by CCMC, are a response to this nonprofit need.