Evaluation is all about defining program outcomes and then measuring progress towards those outcomes.

“Outcomes” is a strange word. Think of outcomes as goals. In particular, programs need SMART goals. Programs with SMART goals are more likely to be successful and efficient than programs with vague, cloudy goals.

SMART goals are:

  • S = Specific. Goals should be as specific as possible. This helps the direct service staff who are doing the day-to-day work stay focused and keep their eye on the prize.
  • M = Measurable. You’re more likely to stay on track when you measure your progress towards your goals.
  • A = Attainable. Dream big and be optimistic, but remember that good intentions aren’t enough. It’s harder to commit to goals that aren’t realistic for your program.
  • R = Realistic. All programs hit roadblocks from time to time, like staff turnover or funding challenges. Set goals that are do-able given any restraints you might be facing.
  • T = Timely. You might have several short-term goals and several long-term goals for the program. Set timeframes to keep everyone on the same page and focused on the same goals.

SMART goals are, well, smart! They keep everyone focused on the same priorities, from direct service stafff to senior management.

— Ann Emery