Evaluation

This module covers:

  • How to assess the success of your fund

Once you have a system set up for fund spend and start to see the money going out the door each year, it is easy to think that you have reached the end of the road.

However, it is vital that you continue to evaluate your processes and ensure that you are working as efficiently as possible.

Many communities find that after a few years, they have fulfilled the most pressing priorities on their development plan, and are unsure how to progress. Hopefully, if you have created a strong strategy and development plan, you will have prepared for the long term, and will be able to keep projects coming forward, and supporting the community for the duration of the development's lifetime.

If you specified measurable targets in your plan (See Module 2), you can look at these each year and assess how you are achieving them. If you do not appear to be on the way to achieving these, you need to look at your assessment and selection process – does your grant application criteria paperwork and process support your aims?

If you have a less thorough development plan, you can still look at assessing the effectiveness of the fund by more active methods. Consider holding another community consultation – this could be after three or four years. You should assess how well the fund is perceived in the wider community.

It is important that people feel the fund is approachable, and that the community is aware of how they access the funds, and what criteria they must meet to be eligible.

If applicants are unsuccessful, ensure they understand why, and encourage them to apply again.

Legacy

Your project will run for around 25 years, and the benefits should be felt beyond that. You will need to ensure the community organisation has regular votes, with new members coming in and being familiarised with the process. If you have a strong development plan, clear criteria and a streamlined process, you should be able to pass the reins on to new members who can continue your good work! Consider refreshing membership of all groups – i.e. your panel, or steering group, depending on the setup that you have adopted.

If you have followed most of the guidance package to this point, you should now have a development plan with clear aims, objectives, outcomes and outputs. If possible, you must ensure that the overall aims of your project are being met.

If projects evaluate only on outputs then you could appear to be doing lots of work (putting people through training courses), but not actually achieving your aims (are people doing anything with their training?). If projects move on to evaluating the outcomes through indicators, this can show how the project perceives the impact the spending is having, i.e. asking trainees what they got from it, recording the number of trainees subsequently employed, etc.

This gives a better picture, but can still be misleading, i.e. trainees could be getting jobs outside of the local area, leading to unsustainable depopulation.

However, if a project takes the indicators and discusses them with the community and other stakeholders, a fuller picture can emerge to allow the success of the aims to be evaluated. This can help projects to alter their course and effect change to their aims.

This is vital as evaluation should be seen as part of a circular process, not the end of the process.

For most groups, the end of your development's lifetime probably seems a long way away right now. You should still plan for how you intend to disband – be clear with the developer on what may happen to any remaining funds at the end of the period.