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  • Michelle Molina

Three Types of Evaluation for Nonprofits (Simple Overview)


Evaluators have a lot of jargon and in this video, I want to clarify some of it. Here you’ll learn the difference between summative evaluation, formative evaluation, and developmental evaluation. These three types of evaluation differ in their purpose for collecting and using data. You don’t need to know all the jargon related to the different types of program evaluation to improve your ability to use data. But, understanding the basics will not only increase your evaluation capacity / confidence, it will also give you the ability to communicate better with stakeholders and build a shared language. Having a clear understanding of the purpose of the sort of data you are collecting will help you focus on the type of data you should be collecting and the sorts of conversations you should be having when you are making sense of that data. The 3 types of evaluation each have their purpose. Clarifying your purpose is a key part of any evaluation process (even if you don’t know all the jargon). The biggest difference between formative vs summative is that in formative your purpose is to find areas to improve, while in summative you’re seeking to make a judgment. It’s easy to see the importance of formative evaluation because formative assessment strategies help us understand our processes and if we’re headed in the right direction. A lot of organizations spend more time doing a formative evaluation. Alternatively, real summative evaluation (i.e., when we’re making a final decision or judgment) is fairly rare. Developmental Evaluation is a better approach when we’re open to emerging ideas and pivoting to fit our community's needs. This goes beyond identifying improvements because we’re open to alternative approaches to achieving our outcomes.


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