Key Considerations for Effectively Reporting Evaluation Findings
These steps can help drive your intended users to action or influence someone or something based on the findings presented in your evaluation report.
Stakeholders are people who are invested in the program or potentially affected by the evaluation. Stakeholders can play a key role by offering input throughout the evaluation process to ensure effective and useful reporting of evaluation results.
You can engage stakeholders
- During the planning phase. Stakeholders can help determine the intended use of the evaluation findings, identify potential primary users of findings, and help develop a reporting and dissemination plan.
- Once data have been collected. Stakeholders can review interim findings, interpret data, help prepare findings, and assist in developing potential recommendations.
- When developing the evaluation report. Stakeholders can help define the audience, identify any potential uses of the information, and ensure report findings meet the evaluation purpose.
The purpose determines how the evaluation report and findings are used, who the users are, and the most appropriate type of reporting. There may be multiple purposes for conducting an evaluation.
Two common reasons for evaluating CDC-funded programs are to guide program improvement and to ensure program effectiveness.
- Program improvement. Program staff may want to see a dashboard report of selected indicators and receive regular brief, verbal updates at meetings to learn what midcourse adjustments to make to improve program operations and activities.
- Program effectiveness. A funding agency may ask for a detailed, comprehensive report to demonstrate whether program components contribute to expected outcomes for accountability purposes.
The evaluation’s purpose can have a direct effect on how evaluation data are applied and used. Often, the desire is for evaluation recommendations and findings to inform decision making and lead to program improvement. Alternatively, evaluation results may be used to support or justify a preexisting position, resulting in little to no programmatic change.
Consider and define the target audience of your evaluation report and findings.
- Who are the intended primary users or the specific stakeholders who will most likely use the findings?
- Is the target audience the funding agency of the program, individuals who are served by the program, or key legislators or decision makers in your local government?
Evaluation findings can be presented differently depending on the target audience and primary evaluation users. Some things to keep in mind about your audience are:
- Effective communication channels. Identify the appropriate, preferred, and commonly used channels of communicating with your audience.
- Desired action. Consider what action you want the audience to take and what is within their sphere of influence. Explore how the target audience makes decisions or decides to take action on the basis of new information.
- Technical expertise or comprehension. Reflect on the level of familiarity the audience has with the particular subject matter and tailor the level of language to meet their comfort level. Opt to use plain language over more technical language.
- Cultural appropriateness. Ensure that reports are culturally appropriate for the audience.
- Perceptions and expectations. Identify the audience’s interest in or expectations of the project. Evaluation results may not always be expected or favorable. Regardless of how the findings are perceived, the opportunity for use remains. Also consider how the audience perceives the evaluator and the evaluation process.
- Presentation of information. Present findings according to the audience’s preference. For example, choose between written documentation and oral communication and between presenting anecdotal stories and presenting data.
- Experience and context. Consider how your audience may interpret the findings, based on their understanding and experiences. Provide context where necessary, and keep the methodology description simple.