How to: Evaluate group activity

Following some simple steps will help you to produce information that you can use for almost any purpose.

If you can evaluate activity that your group does, this can be helpful when:

  • applying for additional funding
  • promoting your group
  • completing monitoring forms for funding you have received
  • finding out whether your activity has been a success
  • planning future activity

Step one – Where are we now?

A good place to start when evaluating activity – and one that is often forgotten – is identifying where you are before any activity takes place. If you know at the start what you want to change, it makes it much easier to know what kind of information you need to collect after your activity. For example, if you would like to run an event to encourage more people to join your group, you would start by looking at how many people are already members. You may want to break this down to see how many people who are members regularly attend, or how many undertake organisational or committee roles.

The detail you go into is up to you, but the more information you collect now, the more change you will be able to show at the end. From these, you can set aims that you want your event to achieve. These can be as specific as you want, but it can be better to set specific targets so that you can see how effective your activity is against these.

Step two – What were the outcomes/outputs of the activity?

The type of activity your group has undertaken will determine whether you will have outputs, outcomes or a mixture of both. Outputs are things that your activity produces, such as posters or leaflets. If the purpose of your activity was to increase the number of members in your group, an output could be the number of posters you produced to promote your event. Outcomes are things that have changed as a result of undertaking the activity. You may just want to measure the number of new members your group has. However, you may also want to know how effective your event promotion has been.

To do this, you could ask people who attend the event where they heard about it. This could help you see what locations are the best to advertise in. Your outputs and outcomes should be linked into what you found out looking at ‘where we are now’. If you think about what these are before you put on the event, it can help shape it to better meet your needs.

Step three - What have we done?

This is a description of the activity that your group is undertaking. You need to make sure that you show how the activity that you have undertaken intended to achieve change.

If we use the example above, you may want to say who was involved, how much the event cost, how it was advertised, who was invited, what happened at the event and why you chose to put on this type of event specifically. This does not have to be a long description. You do not have to write a lot of information about each element, but the more elements you include, the more you can use the evaluation to see what worked particularly well and what did not work at all.

Step four – Have we been successful?

Once you have done your activity, you can look at what has happened as a result of this. Have you achieved the aims you set in Step one? This is not necessarily a yes or no question. To measure how successful you have been with your activity, you need to compare the information you collected before you began your activity with the same information after the activity and see if they indicate that your aims have been achieved.

For example, you may only want to see if the number of members of your group has increase. However, you may have set an objective to increase membership by a certain number or percentage. This is still a very simple case of counting, but you can also use other information you may have collected, and outputs produced, to get a better idea of exactly what has been the most effective in achieving this aim.

Step five – how can you learn from what you have done?

It is important to make sure that your evaluation can be used in the future. This may be to apply for funding to undertake a similar activity, or it could be to help you improve the activity for next time, or even decide whether or not you want to do the activity in the future.

For example, you may find that posters placed in a community centre to promote your event were the thing that made most people attend the event and led to the most people joining your group.

If you do this event in future, you may produce less posters and be more targeted about where you place them. This will help you get the best return for less financial input, and help you to make sure activities that your group does in the future achieve their aims effectively.

> How to: Evaluate group activity
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For more information or to get support and advice contact the Rainbow Partnership.