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Monitoring & Evaluation,

Quality Management

Updated 25/11/13

Follow the trail

This page



A briefings page, within the Management grouping.


This is not just something you get consultants or professionals to do! There is an increasing trend towards evaluation, quality management, strategic planning etc. Perfomance measurement (and reporting) is increasingly a funding requirement, and should be integrated into a performance improvement (or maintenance) strategy as far as possible.

Some people think all this gets in the way of getting on and doing the work, which can be true, but don't you want to be sure you are actually doing useful stuff effectively, and getting the most out of your limited resources? Below we give some basics on the jargon and ideas which consultants use - while they can often bring in a wider view and feed in other organisations experiences, their main benefit is often forcing you to step back from the daily grind and take stock. Note that some jargon can be used differently depending on people's background and experience - stopping to agree meanings at the start of an exercise can be worthwhile, if tedious!

You can do this yourselves if you are serious. Just make sure that the time, money, formality, expertise etc. that you use are appropriate for the size and complexity of the organisation (or unit) and the issues you wish to tackle. This page should be a starting point in deciding how to do this.

Planning Tips

Where should you be concentrating your energies? Assess what is important in your operations, and assess their performance (in your terms). Fit into the matrix below (adapted by OUBS course B752 from Slack), and take appropriate action. For example if you are good at activities which are of only low importance (to your goals), you may be able to release this 'excessive' attention, and use it to take urgent action on bad performers which will have greater impact overall.

performance v importance matrix

SWOT One of the classic approaches to where you are and where you might go. Do a matrix examining the organisation's Strengths and Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. Concentrate on exploiting the S and O, reducing or avoiding the W and T. STEP analysis is used alongside this - look at the various factors impacting on the organisation - Sociological, Technological, Economic, Political. Sometimes Environment and Values are added to this collection. We've also seen PESTLE with the L for Legal.

Mission, Goals, Objectives, Targets Terminology here can be particularly problematic - Vision, values, aims, activities could equally well be used. Basically you need some structure that goes from the long-term Broad Purpose (why) through medium-term 'what can we achieve' to the immediate (within next year) and specific hows which can be costed out in detail. A 'pyramid of purpose' is illustrated below (bottom level of targets left off as needs better drawing software!).

mission, aims, objectives pyramid

More on Mission on the Organisation Management page.

SMART Are your proposals (objectives, targets) Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timed?(Have also seen items 3 and 4 stated as Actionable, Realistic.) If they can't be phrased in this way, maybe they are operating principles - e.g. 'working in partnership' is an underlying approach rather than an activity in its own right.

Three dimensions Activities, Resources and Goals/Objectives all inter-relate. While you can look at one of these areas at a time, you must then see what effect any changes or developments in one will have on the others and re-visit your original ideas if this throws up problems or further issues.

Another three dimensions

marketing, operations, finance

Adapted from Open University B752 'competitive performance management' summary diagram. These three functional areas have to work together in achieving organisational objectives. The precise split and labels may differ (eg marketing may be called fundraising or public relations and, rather than determining the mix of products and services, will be responsible for 'selling' the desired mix to potential funders), but the necessity for having a balanced approach remains.

Monitoring and Quality

Measuring a project's success, to satisfy funders, trustees but also to address shortcomings, make changes as part of learning process. Not just inputs (resources used, such as money, volunteer time) but outputs (e.g. level of activities), outcomes (what actually happened/changed as a result) and even impact (moving towards achieving the mission). What happened along the way on personnel, finances, unexpected spin-offs, changing environment etc. and how this can be used/improved (learning from failure), influence on priorities.

Approaches and standards

Evaluation support

Also see Further Resources below.

Specific areas


A buzz word which can be taken in a number of ways. Basically the idea is to find a comparator to 'benchmark' your operations against - usually the idea is to find 'best practice', identify the gaps between you and them, and work to improve. It isn't easy in the voluntary sector to find the partners or agree on peformance indicators, and some would say that the value is looking further afield - if you want to benchmark a phone counselling service, say, why not compare with a call centre handling customer complaints?

As Benchmarking Plus (Australia) says, 'a survey may tell you where you rank, but it won't help you improve your position' (but it might prompt you to ask some questions). We reproduce a page of theirs giving ten common benchmarking mistakes. Unfortunately their web site no longer contains any useful resources (autumn 2011).

We have extracts from a survey investigating the need for and practicalities of a benchmarking club for UK charities (Open University, 1997).

NCVO has some more on benchmarking, including resources.

Benchmarking initiatives

Further Resources

There are some good training courses from DSC, plus CES mentioned above.

NCVO's Third Sector Foresight project has closed, spring 2013? (certainly its website has).

CES has a resources section on its website.


See Buy Management Books Direct for titles - almost certainly the best introductory book is Complete Guide to Business and Strategic Planning by Alan Lawrie.

Voluntary Arts Scotland has produced Mapping the Future (pdf format), written for small arts and voluntary groups.

International Development Research Centre has made its publication Organizational Assessment: A Framework for Improving Performance available online. Not sector specific but does go beyond the commercial.

On the web, IT

New Economics Foundation has produced 'New ways of measuring' such as Social Return on Investment: Valuing what matters. Most publications available as free PDF downloads.

Also see Social Return on Investment Network, with a SROI GUide published May 2009 with government support.

Strategic Planning Society is probably only really useful for the big voluntary bodies (they seem to bracket the voluntary sector with the public one), but you may be able to pick up some ideas from their web site. The Voluntary Sector Special Interest Group appears to have disappeared. 17 Portland Place, London, W1N 3AF, phone 020 7636 7737, email:

Here are initial findings on useful software:

Non-Profit Evaluation - international resources

The following,mainly American, web sites seem promising, if you have the time - we have only done basic checking on them. All are non-profit specific.