Program Evaluation and Financial Sustainability

This chapter focuses on the role played by program evaluation and performance measurement in influencing the financial sustainability of a nonprofit organization. Topics in this chapter include theories, concepts, and principles of program evaluation, a logic model, performance measurement, basic research skills related to program evaluation, and development of program evaluation plans for quality assurance and continuing quality improvement.


Yen, Terao, and Shmidt (2009) define a program as a "set of planned and purposive activities" (p. 6). Two words are worth emphasizing: "planned" and "purposive." If I were to summarize, I would say a program is a plan with a purpose. The plan includes a set of activities. This is very close to the definition given by Royse, Thyer, and Logan (2006) who argue that a program is "an organized collection of activities designed to reach certain objectives ... series of planned actions designed to solve some problem ... to have some kind of an impact on the program participants" (p. 5). In both definitions, we can see that a program is a plan, a plan with a set of activities. I could even say a plan with a set of activities that are designed to achieve an objective, a goal, or a purpose.


A program evaluation design is a document outlining principles and procedures to assess the achievement of a program's goals. The logic model is one of the most common program design frameworks used in program evaluation. A logic model is a graphic depicting what a program will accomplish. It is a series of interconnected assumptions that can lead to a set of desired outcomes. Assumptions are beliefs about conditions expected to be met or satisfied by the program and the participants in order for the program to be successful. Assumptions are based on a problem or a gap. Assumptions are also based on goals or objectives used to fill the identified gap. Assumptions involve a form of if-then relationship between some variables related to a community or social issue to be addressed (Figure 19.1).

Let us consider the issue of child abuse and neglect in a community. Let us assume that data published by a reputable research institute found that many children are being abused or neglected by their teenage parents in Wasau, Wisconsin. With appropriate data obtained from a credible source, there will be no doubt about concluding that this is a problem to be addressed. Bear with me, this is an illustration. In the real world, this problem must be justified through a fact-based approach, using appropriate literature. For the sake of the illustration, we agree this is a problem. Great!

Now, here is my suggestion to address the problem: I want to develop a parenting skills training program. You may wonder, "Why do you suggest a parenting program when the issue that you were trying to justify was child abuse and neglect?" I would have asked the same question, because there is a sense of disconnect in that idea. You may ask, "How do you know this is the right program to address such an issue?" Great question! I don't know the answer. Maybe you think that I should suggest taking these children away from the abusive parents and placing them in foster homes. This may be the answer, but this is not what I suggest in the context of this illustration. What I do know is that I made an assumption when suggesting a parenting program in order to address an issue of child abuse and neglect. I made the assumption that parents abuse their children because they lack parenting skills. If this happens to be the case, I also assume that increased parenting skills will prevent parents from abusing their children. My objective in that case is to increase the parenting skills of parents at risk of abusing their children. This is what an assumption is about when developing a logic model. The if-then relationship is there. If parents lack parenting skills, then they will abuse their children. If parents learn parenting skills, then they will stop abusing their children. If parents stop abusing their children, then more children will be living in a safe environment at home.

FIGURE 19.1 Assumptions.

Logic model.

FIGURE 19.2 Logic model.

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