Evaluation can provide useful data and other information to supplement your outreach content. What you measure helps tell your overall prevention advocacy story.
Outcomes Provide Powerful Information
Because a key element of local fire prevention advocacy is persuading the community to support funding for prevention efforts, your evaluation plan is especially critical. Being able to show that you are measuring the success of your efforts increases program credibility and helps you prove the connection between the investment in prevention and the outcome of less fire loss.
Most organizations must undertake some form of evaluation to be accountable to funders and/or as part of routine fiscal management. Even if there is no requirement for evaluation, it’s worthwhile. Evaluation is a process that is initiated at the outset and continues through to the end. Guided by your objectives, periodically determine progress and if necessary, adjust your strategy based upon success of current efforts. This allows you time to make changes if your initial plan is not showing the results you want. Your documented measurement of the impact and reach of your efforts can help you maintain or secure funding for prevention activities.
Use Standardized Measures to Document Performance
Formative – Formative measures are those associated with the problem identification phase of a prevention planning process. It enables you to identify the nature of problems to be addressed and the audiences involved. From this approach you learn who, what, when, and where. Knowing this information will help guide decisions about current programs and design of new ones. This may be the result of interviews with staff and the target audience, observation, needs or risk assessment, or research.
Process – Process measures are those related to development and implementation. It occurs after a program is implemented and allows for a closer examination of the nuts and bolts of the program. Tracking implementation activities and outputs (workload) or efficiency allows you to measure the commitment of resources for a program directly related to your objective. Measures might be expressed in numbers (home visits, presentations, inspections, personnel, hours, equipment, supplies, etc.).
Impact – An impact evaluation is your first real opportunity to begin measuring the changes in knowledge, skills, and risk-reducing behaviors. The principle difference between an impact and an outcome measure is the difference between short-term and long-term results. This may involve surveys, questionnaires, direct observation, group discussions and focus groups.
Outcome – Outcome evaluation is where everything comes together. The outcome evaluation looks for reductions in losses as a result of your program implementation including reduced deaths, injuries, property loss and dollars. Outcome evaluation takes place long term, after your program has been implemented for a period of time.
Evaluation of your prevention programs provides the evidence you need to demonstrate how prevention saves lives, dollars and community. The same methods for evaluating prevention programs are used to measure the success of your advocacy program. Vision 20/20 has resources to help you.
Fire Prevention Performance Measurement and Evaluation training is available at no cost at the strategicfire.org website.