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How to plan the monitoring and evaluation of your mentoring or befriending project

This guide will help you plan the monitoring and evaluation of a mentoring or befriending project or service.
It will help to identify what you want your project to achieve and how you will show progress. These are the first steps in monitoring and evaluating your project.

Things you'll need

  • service users
  • mentors and befrienders
  • staff and stakeholders

First things first - your service users

The starting point for monitoring and evaluating your mentoring or befriending project should be your service users. Ask yourself:

  • who are our service users?
  • what problems do they face? 
  • what are their needs?

Your project should reflect and address these problems and you need to be clear on what they are. For example:

  • are your service users aged 75 and over and facing problems of isolation and loneliness?
  • are service users young people at risk of offending who are demotivated and lacking confidence?

Understand what your project is trying to achieve

Identify the changes, learning and benefits (also known as outcomes) you want your project to achieve. These are the foundation for your monitoring and evaluation and should reflect the problems and needs of your service users.

When setting out your outcomes you need to use words that suggest positive change such as:

  • increased
  • improved
  • reduced
  • greater
  • more
  • less.

For example, in the case of the mentoring project supporting young people at risk of offending, outcomes might include:

  • increased confidence in abilities
  • improved job searching skills
  • greater sense of being part of the local community.

Identifying four or five outcomes will be enough for most mentoring or befriending projects and some will require fewer than this.

You also need to be clear on what your project does, ie the services and activities it provides (also known as outputs). Together, these activities should help to achieve your project’s outcomes.

For the mentoring project, working with young people at risk of offending, activities might include, one-to-one mentoring sessions, or employment workshops.

Read our guide to help you think through the difference your work makes - the foundation for your monitoring and evaluation. Theory of change can be useful to help identify and communicate what you want your project to achieve, the work you do and how they connect.

Theory of change looks at how and why a change is expected to happen in a particular context by:

  • identifying long-term goals
  • mapping what is necessary to achieve that goal and explaining why
  • identifying basic assumptions about the context
  • identifying the interventions that your initiative will perform to create a change
  • developing indicators to measure outcomes to assess the performance of an initiative.

The Planning Triangle, developed by NCVO Charities Evaluation Services, is a helpful basic theory of change tool.


Use indicators to show progress

Once you have identified what your project does and what you want it to achieve you will need to develop indicators. These are the specific pieces of information you want to collect - the signs and clues to help you monitor and assess progress. Prioritise the most important outcomes by focusing on what is most important to your service users, organisation and funders.

Your output indicators will help you to collect information on the number and types of services and activities you have and how satisfied users are with them.

With the mentoring example, output indicators might include:

  • number of one-to-one mentoring sessions
  • length of mentoring session.  

Your outcome indicators will help you evaluate if changes are taking place as a result of your project. For example:

  • whether young people know where to look for work
  • the extent to which young people feel they belong in the community.

Useful terms you can use for developing your indicators include:

  • the extent to which
  • whether
  • the number of
  • how much
  • the type of.

For further advice on developing indicators see Evaluation Support Scotland's guidance, which includes three easy steps for developing indicators.


Use indicators developed by others if relevant and useful

You may find it helpful to use or build on indicators developed by others. We are currently bringing together outcome indicators that are relevant to different mentoring and befriending projects.

These could be used to measure various different outcomes including happiness, well-being, self-esteem, self-control, resilience, loneliness and employability. This online resource will be available soon.

If you are thinking about using indicators developed elsewhere you need to make sure they are suited to the outcomes you want your project to have. The most crucial thing is that you monitor and evaluate what is important for your specific mentoring and befriending project.


Involve others in your planning

Think early on about who should be involved in your monitoring and evaluation for your project. Service users, mentors and befrienders, staff and others will have views on what your project should be trying to achieve and what needs to be evaluated.

Getting them involved early on means more people will be on board with what you are trying to do and will be more likely to pay attention to your findings. You should also communicate with your funders to ensure you are both clear about the outcomes for your project and your plans for monitoring and evaluation.

Further information

This is the first part of five ‘how to’ guides to help monitor and evaluate your mentoring or befriending project. The other guides look at:


Theory of Change examples developed by mentoring and befriending projects 

Project Project description Theory of change
Time to talk (RNIB) Peer support project for older people with sight loss RNIB Time to Talk Evaluation Report (see page 39 for theory of change)
Offender Mentoring Projects (Probation Trust) Mentoring projects for offenders and those at risk of offending Mentoring Evaluation Report (see page for ToC)
Twenty Twenty Mentoring Mentoring scheme matching adult mentors with young people Social Return on Investment Report (see page 11 for ToC)
Footprints Project Mentoring project aimed at reducing the risk of reoffending Footprints Theory of Change
Sova METRO (Sova) Volunteer mentors support offenders across the West Midlands Employment Mentoring Theory of Change (see page 2 for ToC)


Page last edited Jun 08, 2018 History

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