Guidelines for Evaluating Nonprofit Communications Efforts
This final working paper is the fifth in a series of papers prepared for the Communication Consortium Media Center’s Media Evaluation Project. It summarizes the main findings of the first four working papers in the series, and offers guidelines for evaluating nonprofit communications efforts.
It is particularly helpful for “public will” campaigns, which focus on creating public will for change so that popular pressure will move officials to take action, though campaigns for individual behaviour change are also discussed.
According to the paper, for any evaluation to be effective and useful, the communications campaign needs to have certain key elements in place first, such as a clear objective, timeline, resources, chosen spokespeople, a set of messages, a clear target audience, and so on. (The exception to this is formative evaluations — those which inform the initial development of the campaign.)
These are some of the questions you will need to consider before designing an evaluation, and which are explored in the working paper:
- What is the purpose of the communications campaign? Is the desired outcome a change in individuals’ behaviors, public will, government policy, or something in between?
- What scope will the campaign’s desired effect have?
- What is the campaign’s “theory of change”? (A theory of change is a representation of what needs to be in place to make a given type of change happen, and typically includes several stages that feed into one another.)
- Which of these types of evaluation do you need (within resource and budget limitations)? The working paper lists common measures for each of these types, and discusses the techniques and challenges that are relevant to each.
- Formative: takes place before the campaign, collecting information, such as polling data, to help in designing the campaign
- Process: examines the implementation, such as number of efforts to work with the media
- Outcome: examining the effects on the target audience
- Impact: examining the wider effects, such as long-term or national impact
- What’s the budget for the evaluation, and what can you realistically expect to get for your money? For example, the working paper gives a rough estimate that up to $5000 would only be enough for a process evaluation.