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Writing an evaluation brief

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When commissioning an evaluation, it is essential to write an evaluation brief. This is a short document – perhaps two to four sides of A4 – which can be sent to any consultants being asked to bid for the work.

Providing potential consultants with an evaluation brief ensures they will have the information they need to tailor a proposal to meet your needs. Remember that consultants may have questions about your brief or want to speak to you about the evaluation in more detail. Try to set aside some time for this.

Before writing the brief

Be clear on the purpose of the evaluation

First, make sure you know why you want to carry out the evaluation. Is it needed to report to a funder? Is it to help strategic planning? Do you want it to help you develop and improve services?

Decide on the focus of the work

Do you want the evaluation to focus on a specific project or service? Are you looking to find out about outcomes for a specific set of stakeholders? Think about the questions that you’d like the evaluation to help answer.

If you are not entirely sure about your focus, outlining the issues that you would like to address will be the starting point for a discussion between you and the consultant about what is appropriate for your needs and budget.

There will potentially be a number of things you want to find out so it would be good to think about all the possibilities and then prioritise them. Your budget and/or timescale may mean not all questions can be answered.

Know your audience

Think about who will read the evaluation findings and what their interests in them will be. This will help the consultant to tailor the evaluation methods and reporting appropriately.

Decide who will do the work

Do you want all the work done externally, or will some be done internally? You should take into consideration evaluation work and associated administration (venue hire, sending out questionnaires etc). Providing internal support will keep your costs down, but make sure you have properly resourced this based on the proposed timetable for the work. Any delays or failure to provide information to the consultant may affect the quality of the results the consultant can deliver.

Choose someone to liaise with the consultant

Your work does not stop when you have successfully engaged a consultant. It is important that you work closely with the consultant to make sure you get what you need from the evaluation. Make sure you have one named person who will take responsibility for the work, and who will be the contact point for the consultant and for anyone involved internally.

Consider creating an evaluation advisory group

For larger evaluations, an advisory group can help to steer an evaluation and support the consultant. Remember to consider the logistics and budget that will be required.

Decide on your selection process for consultants

If you are approaching several consultants and you receive more than one proposal, you will need to choose between them. Consider what your process for doing this will be. If you have time, it can be helpful to interview consultants – make sure you ask for all main team members to attend an interview so you get to meet the people you may be working with.

The content of the brief

Provide background information, including the purpose of the evaluation

  • Give a basic outline of the organisation.
  • If you want to evaluate a specific project or programme, provide an overview of it including its aims and outcomes.
  • Write the questions you would like the evaluation to answer.
  • Explain the focus and purpose of the work, and who will use the findings.
  • Where possible, include any supporting documents which may aid understanding, for example, business plans, theory of changeevaluation framework.

Describe the key deliverables

Describe what you expect the consultant to produce – for example, a report with recommendations, infographics or a presentation. Remember that any outputs should be tailored to their intended audience and what their interests are.

Outline the timing of the evaluation

This should include key milestones and deadlines if you have a specific timeline in mind.

  • Explain when you would like the work carried out and completed. Giving as much notice of the start date as possible will increase the chance of consultant involvement. Try to give them at least three months’ notice; longer is better.
  • Is there any flexibility in timing? The more flexible you can be the greater the chance consultant will be able to work with you.
  • If you have specific deliverables, outline when you would like to receive them.

Consider any issues affecting the evaluation

  • Do you want the evaluation to reflect particular organisational values? For example, you may want the evaluators to take a participatory approach to work with users, by consulting them as part of the evaluation.
  • Has any evaluation of this work happened recently? When? What worked well about this, and what could have been improved?

Describe the data collection

  • Outline what data is available for the consultant to review as part of the evaluation. Note what type of data has been collected (quantitative, qualitative or both), how much data there is, where it is stored and what tools (for example, surveys, interviews or monitoring forms) were used to collect it. 
  • Are there any other sources of information? There may be previous evaluation reports or other paperwork the consultant will need to read.
  • Who would you like the consultant to collect additional data from?
  • Are there any constraints on data collection that the consultant should be aware of? For example, will there be difficulties with contacting/communicating with users?
  • Ask about the consultant’s data protection processes and compliance with GDPR.
  • Be clear about your internal safeguarding policies and what is required of the consultant. For example, do they need to have a DBS check to be able to interview your clients?

Outline internal responsibilities and liaison

  • Explain who will liaise with the consultant.
  • Describe what, if any, work will be carried out internally, for example, collecting and collating data, or administration work.
  • Detail what liaison, advisory or steering group meetings there will be.

Describe what skills and knowledge you’re looking for

  • What skills, knowledge and values do you want proposals to be able to demonstrate?
  • Ask the consultant to specify who will be involved in the work, and for an indication of what each team member will be doing.
  • Get CVs, examples of work and perhaps follow up references of consultants before agreeing to work with them. 

Outline the selection process

If you are inviting proposals from a number of consultants, outline the timetable for your selection process; if you will interview consultants, giving the date in advance is helpful.

Give details of the budget

  • Be as specific as possible about your budget, it will help potential consultants assess whether they are able to help you and tailor their proposal accordingly, saving you time and improving the quality of the proposals you receive.
  • Any internal support you provide can bring down the cost.
  • Remember to make clear if the budget includes expenses and VAT – this can make a difference.
  • Say what financial information you want consultants to give you – for example, the day rate for each team member and the number of days they will spend on the work.

Read more about what to consider when preparing an evaluation budget.

Page last edited Oct 12, 2020

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