Step 2: Data Collection – Overview

Once you’ve defined your evaluation question, you need to decide what data to collect and how you are going to collect it.

It is important to strike a balance between what is easy to measure and what information will be most useful. There may be things that are quite easy to measure, but don’t help you answer your evaluation questions. Keep in mind that “easy to measure” is relative and will be different for each organization depending on time, skills and resources. For example, it may be easy for your organization to track attendance at meetings or public forums, but you may also realize that attendance numbers alone don’t help you know if your forum resulted in audiences who were more likely to prioritize your issue, more likely to take action, or even learned something from the forum.

Some of these things that are part of answering your evaluation question, such as whether your audience took action after the forum, can be very difficult to measure. Instead, you may have to measure actions that people signed up to take on commitment cards as they exit the forum – a statement about intent, rather than documentation of actual actions taken.

Ultimately, you want to let your evaluation question(s) guide your selection of data collection tools. Once you have considered if something is measurable and if you have the time and resources to implement measurement, it is important to make sure the information you collect will be meaningful and useful.