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Costing an evaluation

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You’ve decided you need an evaluation. You’ve worked out the focus, purpose, questions you want it to answer and how stakeholders will be involved. Now you need to consider the budget.

Money spent on evaluation will maximise your ability to help your beneficiaries – it shouldn’t be thought of as additional spending. Investing in evaluation also demonstrates to funders and supporters that your organisation is committed to evidence-based programme development.

An evaluation budget typically includes:

  • salary for internal staff who will be involved
  • stakeholder engagement activity costs.

If you are commissioning an external evaluation your budget will also include:

  • external consultancy fees
  • external consultancy expenses (subsistence, travel, accommodation).

If you are commissioning an external evaluation, consultancy fees will be your largest expense. External consultancy fees are usually charged at a daily rate. The more work that is involved the more time it will take, which increases the fees. You are likely to find fees quoted between £300 and £800 per day, and you may, but not always, find that the difference in fees charged relates to levels of experience. So, if commissioning an independent evaluation, it is best to think of your budget in terms of days needed.

Factors affecting the evaluation budget

The cost of an evaluation will vary according to its scope and nature. However, considering the following factors should help you to work out roughly how much time and out-of-pocket expense is likely to be needed.

The complexity of your programme

The greater the scope and complexity of your project or programme, the greater the amount of time that may be needed to conduct the evaluation. For example, consider:

  • Geographic location – are there multiple sites involved, and will they all need to be visited? If yes, travel and overnight expenses may need to be paid. Travel time may also be a consideration.
  • Beneficiary group – will there be any challenges in collecting information from the beneficiary group if it is necessary to do so? Collecting information from vulnerable or hard-to-reach groups and those that can only be accessed through intermediaries often means more time and effort.
  • Staffing – an organisation or project with more staff may be able to do more data collection and other tasks in-house, which can save money.

The questions you want to answer

The key questions the evaluation intends to answer will affect the amount of time needed. More sophisticated or complex evaluation approaches, and those looking at longer-term impact, are generally more expensive. Prioritising your evaluation questions can help reduce costs if needed.

What data you already have

Data collection often takes up the most time and budget for any evaluation. If data is already collected in a robust, systematic and shareable way that can be used by evaluators, it may reduce the amount of data collection that they need to do themselves.

What kind of data collection methods might be suitable

Different types of data collection methods and sources require different amounts of effort, time and technical expertise. It is important to also consider the corresponding time and technical expertise that will be needed to analyse and interpret the data. Remember that good data analysis is crucial and is where most learning can be gained.

Qualitative information such as interviews typically needs more time to collect, and needs time and expertise to analyse. Quantitative methods such as questionnaires can also be time consuming depending on the scale, because they involve design, testing, distribution and promotion, all of which may need staff involvement.

How involved you’d like different stakeholders to be

The higher the level of involvement in the evaluation process of staff, trustees, beneficiaries and any other stakeholders such as steering group members, the more time that will have to be planned in. It is highly recommended to actively involve stakeholders in the evaluation process – it usually strengthens evaluation – but remember to consider what is appropriate based on your available budget.

Whether you’d like to build your organisation’s evaluation capacity

If you are working with external consultants, you can choose to ask them to help increase your organisation’s monitoring and evaluation skills, in addition to undertaking the evaluation. If you’d like to include a capacity-building element, this will need its own dedicated resource and will increase costs.

How you will share and use your findings

When thinking about what outputs you need from the evaluation, consider your audience(s). Different groups of people will have different interests in the findings and you may need to engage with them in different ways. This affects both content and form, and has time and resource implications. A written report will usually be included within the agreed fees. However, other outputs such as podcasts or infographics may require additional costs.

Other elements to consider, if you are using external consultants:

  • Would you like them to present initial findings to relevant stakeholders to reflect on them and provide feedback which can be used to produce a final version?
  • Would you like them to present their findings to the board or other stakeholders?

Don’t forget to make plans for communication and dissemination, so that results can be shared and lessons learnt. An evaluation is only useful if its findings are acted on.

Expenses and VAT

If you are preparing an evaluation budget with the intention of commissioning an external evaluation it is important to state whether you are requesting quotes that include expenses and VAT or not.

Page last edited Dec 16, 2016

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