A monitoring plan should be developed when an organization first starts up, so that collecting information becomes part of everyday life. But that is not the real world, and in the excitement of starting an organization, unless a definite need for monitoring such as a funder’s report requires it, a monitoring plan may not be high on your list. However, there is always the opportunity to expand, develop or focus on a monitoring plan. It may be stimulated by change in the organization, a new funding application, or during a time of strategic planning.
Creating a monitoring and evaluation plan will help the organization to think about how it will carry out monitoring and evaluation over the year or over the lifetime of a project. It will consider:
- When will different information be collected?
- Who will carry out and manage the activities?
- How will information be collected, analyzed and presented?
- How will monitoring and evaluation findings be used in short-term planning and decision making, and quality reviews?
You will then be able to prioritize the information you need to collect regularly and on an occasional basis by being clear about the key questions, such as:
- How are resources being used?
- How appropriate is the management structure?
- How well are we meeting identified needs?
- How do we fit within a network of services?
- How well have we met our expected outcomes?
- What were the unexpected outcomes?
- What lessons did we learn?
Organizations may focus on different questions at different points in time, and they may need different types of information gathering.
As referenced in monitoring, evaluation is an important part of program planning, but in this case we are referring to evaluation of the volunteer(s), not the program.
Are you uncomfortable with evaluating volunteers? Don’t be. As noted before, the success of a non-profit is the ability to perform professionally, and evaluation or performance review sets that standard. Volunteers are an integral part of a team, and as such need to be accountable for their performance and their behaviour.
In her book Best of All, Linda Graff tells us the six important principles that underpin volunteer performance evaluation which include:
- Feedback on volunteer performance does not necessarily mean criticism;
- Volunteer performance feedback should not be reserved for just the formal appraisal sessions;
- Volunteer performance evaluation underscores the importance of volunteer contribution;
- Volunteers do not volunteer to do a bad job;
- Performance evaluation helps the program to better involve volunteers; and
- Performance evaluation should be a mutual exchange.
A very important part of evaluation is having a plan to follow through on agreed changes, training, etc.