Monitoring and evaluation are separate practices dedicated to the assessment of your NGO’s overall performance. Monitoring is a systematic and long-term process that gathers information in regards to the progress made by an implemented project. Evaluation is time specific and it’s performed to judge whether a project has reached its goals and delivered what expected according to its original plan.
First of all, Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) are important for you to assess that your project is achieving set targets. For instance, by monitoring the development of the project you will easily understand whether strategic changes need to be made and act accordingly. Second, M&E are relevant to donors who need to assess whether your NGO is a reliable partner. By reviewing milestones and final outcomes of your projects, donors will decide on the accountability of your NGO, upon which further collaborations could be established. As such, to develop a strong M&E plan is of vital importance.
What you have to consider while developing an M&E strategy:
1) Evaluation. Clearly state what are the milestones of the project and what are the final outputs. On the one hand, this will strengthen the overall consistency of the project proposal. On the other hand, you will make sure that the donor has concrete ways to assess the partial and final results of the project, thus contributing to guarantee a successful communication.
2) Monitoring of outputs. Clearly elaborate on a methodology able to constantly monitor the development of the project so that the evaluation of partial and final outputs is consistent with the monitoring process. For instance, if your output is to train 10 students to use a specific software, make sure to monitor the progress they make every week. In this way, you will be able to provide evidence on how the final output has been reached.
3) Monitoring of outcomes and impacts. Outcomes and impacts are more difficult to assess. Whereas it is clear how to measure the success of an implemented project by stating that a certain goal was reached, to measure the impact of an activity in community dynamics is more challenging. Thus, find your way to monitor what happens ‘around the project’. For instance, you can elaborate on a strategy able to prove that not only these students are learning how to use new software, but also that by acquiring a new skill the quality of their lives is somehow improving. By designing a monitoring strategy able to assess outcomes and impacts, you will succeed in proving to your donor that the implemented activities will have a positive, long-term effect in the community. Further, you can draw on the results of your monitoring practice to design new follow-up projects or to ensure potential new donors on the NGO’s capacity to proactively engage with real problems and positively affect the lives of those you and with whom you are working.
Overall, you should also consider the M&E exercise as a way to make the activities of your NGO transparent and easy to account for. There is nothing worse for a donor than not being able to understand how an NGO is administering a given budget or implementing a project. Thus, everything you do – including difficulties you face and changes you made to overcome contingent problems – needs to be visible. Monitoring serves the purpose of making what you do visible in the sense that it provides tools and instruments to communicate with your donor and the wider public throughout the implementation of the project.