The process of evaluation is interwoven throughout the program as part of your support and supervision processes, including continual monitoring of the mentoring relationships and their progress toward established goals, as well as maintenance of detailed records that capture qualitative and quantitative data efficiently and accurately.
Building a Credible Measure of Success
The ultimate success of your program depends on how well you are able to assess its effectiveness, address any weaknesses and demonstrate that it is meeting goals and objectives.
Therefore, as you create an evaluation process for your program, be sure to include components that allow you to:
- Analyze your program on an ongoing basis;
- Apply lessons learned;
- Address the information needs of your program's board, funders, communication partners and other supporters;
- Share evaluation results and lessons learned with program stakeholders and the broader mentoring community; and
- Continually improve the quality of your program.
With a comprehensive evaluation process in place, you can:
- Provide objective feedback to program staff and participants about whether or not they’re meeting their goals;
- Identify achievements and milestones that warrant praise and increase motivation;
- Pinpoint problems early enough to correct them;
- Assure funders and supporters of your program’s accountability;
- Build credibility in the community that your program is vital and deserves support; and
- Quantify experiences so that your program can help others.
What will success look like for your program? The following guidelines will help you identify the criteria and procedures you’ll use to measure your program’s success. Be sure that you include them in your program’s policies and procedures manual.
- Decide how to define success for your program. Is it the number of mentors you recruit? Positive feedback from parents or your partner organization? The number of mentors who serve out their full commitment?
- List all the elements that make up a successful program according to your organization's standards.
- Set clear, realistic goals for measurement. For example, decide how many mentors you want to recruit in a given time frame, i.e., 12 mentors active by the end of six months.
- Look at less tangible, but equally compelling feedback. Are the mentees doing better in school? Has their behavior improved? Are they more optimistic about their future? Did their experience in a mentoring relationship meet their expectations?
- Solicit feedback from mentors, your partner organizations, mentees and parents. Ask each group to fill out formal surveys or conduct a series of focus groups. For the sake of candor, it's best to conduct separate focus groups—one for mentors, one for mentees and so on. Use the feedback to help you decide whether the program is going well or needs adjustment. An important consideration about conducting focus groups: participants need to trust that their views are taken seriously and may make a difference. To gain credibility and more candid and truthful contributions, assure the group that you’ll use the insight gained. Also, assure them that you’ll share any general findings with them, particularly findings that result in procedure or policy changes that will affect them.
- Do your results justify the cost? How does your program's success stack up against the amount of time and resources your organization has invested in it? To find out, keep careful records of all expenditures related to the program and make reviewing them a part of your evaluation procedures.
For detailed information on mentoring program evaluation, check out our sample resources and tools in the How to Build a Successful Mentoring Program Using the Elements of Effective Practice, Section VII. How to Establish Evaluation Criteria and Methods. Our Resource and Publication Library also includes materials and information on conducting program evaluations.