It may have escaped your notice, but 2015 was declared by the United Nations and others as the International Year of Evaluation, in addition to being the year the Sustainable Development Goals were adopted to replace the Millennium Development Goals.
Why is this important?
With goals as significant as the Sustainable Development Goals, it is of the utmost importance to have plans for determining progress and success – or lack thereof – toward the desired ends. Strong evaluation plans allow organizations and other players to gauge if what they are doing works, and if not, what they need to do to course-correct.
Heifer International is committed to evaluation, through which we expect to gain evidence on whether or not our programs are delivering on the promise of helping families and communities end their own hunger and poverty. We want to learn from our successes and failures and to be able to share what works with the global development community.
We want to continually improve our program interventions so we do not hold the people we serve captive to obsolete or ineffective models. I am happy to share that our website has been updated to include a number of published evaluations and research papers on Heifer’s work, along with overviews of the evaluations currently in progress.
We hope, as impact evaluation rises in visibility and importance, that donors and potential donors will begin to use impact as the yardstick against which we are measured. In 2013, GuideStar, the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance and Charity Navigator issued a joint letter titled “The Overhead Myth,” which states in part, “The percent of a charity’s expenses that go to administrative and fundraising costs – commonly referred to as overhead – is a poor measure of a charity’s performance… In fact, many charities should spend more on overhead. Overhead costs include important investments that charities make to improve their work – investments in training; planning; evaluation; and internal systems to increase effectiveness; as well as efforts to raise money so they can operate their programs.”
According to “The Overhead Myth” letter: “The people and communities served by charities don’t need low overhead, they need high performance.” Heifer International is committed to running an efficient, high-performance organization.
We recognize the serious responsibility we have, both to the smallholder farmers with whom we work, and to the generous donors who help make this important work possible. We strive to be an organization built to change, remaining grounded in our mission, while nimble enough to evolve as needed. Evaluations provide us with the evidence we need to chart the best course for our organization.
You can learn more about the International Year of Evaluation here. And for more information about Heifer’s impact in the communities where we work, visit our website.
This post first appeared on Huffington Post Impact.