Now that you have all this great data and information, you need to decide how you are going to use it.
Pulling together your information in just the right way can be intimidating, but your evaluation plan is designed to guide you the rest of the way. If you used the Evaluation Focus Worksheet discussed in the “Designing Your Evaluation” section, it’s time to go back that document. You will first want to clarify your audience and the purpose of your evaluation and then consider the best timing and delivery of your results. Each of these elements—audience, purpose, timing, and delivery method—all affect the format and the content and level of detail needed. Given the fast-paced nature of advocacy work, it is possible the audience and purpose have shifted, which can be accommodated by highlighting the most currently-relevant aspects of your evaluation results.
The following sections will help you determine which delivery method is most useful given your audience, purpose, and timing constraints.
- Better Evaluation has a useful handout that details different formal and informal reporting methods and how to make your reports user-friendly.
Formal reporting methods include reports, memos, and other written documentation of results. In a formal report, you will want to consider including the following sections:
- Executive Summary, highlighting key findings and recommendations;
- Introduction, explaining why the evaluation was conducted and briefly introducing the advocacy strategy;
- Methods, explaining what data was collected, and how, from whom, and when it was collected;
- Results, detailing what was learned from the evaluation with charts and visual to accompany your narrative; and
- Conclusions and recommendations, giving an overarching statement about what you learned and how you think you should proceed in the future, with an emphasis on actionable information.
You should consider using formal reporting when many of the following are true:
- Your audience is external;
- Your audience tends to want more formal documents;
- Your purpose includes accountability;
- The stakes are high;
- You have surprising or very negative results;
- Your timing is further out or more flexible;
- There are multiple upcoming opportunities to use the information; and/or
- You have no opportunity to meet with the audience.
- Better Evaluation has a great outline of a formal evaluation report.
Informal reporting methods include presentations, handouts, downloads from SurveyMonkey or other graphs, and short write-ups of key findings. When using informal reporting, how you present matters less than what you explore and interpret during the discussion. In other words, this type of reporting can lend itself to being a more interactive conversation between you and your audience, where you can process through what you have learned and what is means for your advocacy strategy. When leading this type of discussion, here are some questions you can pose to your audience:
- What is the answer to our evaluation question?
- What surprises us about the answer?
- When we look at answers to specific questions, what surprises us?
- When we look at how different groups of people answered questions, how do they differ?
- What are some of the ways we can use this information?
- What can we do differently as a result of this conversation?
You should consider using informal reporting when many of the following are true:
- Your audience is internal;
- Your audience wants dialogue and group processing;
- Your purpose includes learning;
- The results are useful, but not surprising or particularly negative;
- The timing is very rapid;
- You are most likely to use information just this once or maybe twice; and/or
- There are opportunities to talk through results with the audience.
Evaluation can help you tell your story! When reporting evaluation findings for marketing purposes, you may be developing press releases, website content, and blogs.
Marketing materials are all about the presentation. It’s not always necessary to include all the detailed facts and figures; instead, it’s about stories and visuals.
Stories provide context, and can help explain why your work matters, share learning or suggest conclusions about what happened. Stories do not usually convey facts, lessons learned, and formal findings.
Visuals should be simple, but also able to be stand-alone, telling a part of your story if not the whole story. Make sure they are clear and not easy to misinterpret. Marketing materials should be quick and easy to digest, while conveying the gist or feeling behind your most impactful evaluation results.
You should consider using marketing materials when many of the following are true:
- Your audience is external;
- Your audience is broad – targeting many different people or points of view;
- The content includes stories;
- The content includes compelling visuals; and/or
- Your purpose includes building visibility and understanding of the work.