Tools for Evaluation
Evaluating where your gardening project is at is a critical step in planning for the future of a successful garden. Because garden projects are continually evolving, it is useful to conduct a regular evaluation to see where you are at and what could be done better to improve your program even further. This page will give you some reasons why evaluation can be important, give you the tools you need to conduct a self-assessment, and provide you with some additional resources to learn more about evaluation.
The information on this page has been contributed by School Garden Wizard, a project of the US Botanic Gardens, and the Chicago Botanic Gardens, that provides valuable tips for building a school garden. Although some of the information presented here is geared toward school gardens, it can be adapted to suit any type of gardening project.
Evaluation has many important purposes, and is useful for any ongoing project that involves many interested parties. Some of the most helpful impacts are:
The evaluation process ensures that everyone involved in the project has a chance to get on the same page again. When working with a group of people that may not have regular interaction, a formal evaluation is one of the best ways to inform everyone on the development of the project.
A well-performed assessment will help you find and address potential problems. It will also allow you to track how well you have addressed problems in the past.
Making your Case
Assessment can provide you with the solid evidence you need to attract and sustain supporters for your garden efforts. When applying for grant monies, past evaluations will let you show how your garden program has grown and developed over time.
Performing a Self Assessment
While it is possible to hire a professional evaluator to perform your assessment, a self-assessment is much more manageable within most garden program budgets. A self-assessment will require you to revisit the goals that you had set for your gardening project when it was first developed: check out our Define Your Goals page to get you started. You will need to review your original mission, goals and objectives to see if your group has been effective in completing its objectives, meeting its goals, and fulfilling its mission.
Download the School Garden Wizard self assessment worksheet (PDF) to get you started. Remember that this guide will be geared toward school gardens, but can be adapted to fit the needs of any type of program.
Another good way to get important feedback for your program evaluation is to perform a program satisfaction survey of the people in your garden. These two surveys for adults and youth were created by the Community Food Security Coalition and provide a model program survey that can be adapted to your program.
Resources on Evaluation
American Evaluation Association
Guides for self-evaluation, help finding professional evaluators
The Outcome Measurement Resource Network of the United Way acts as an informational clearinghouse on how, why, and when to evaluate.
Free Management Library
This website provides a basic guide to program evaluation.
Evaluation Methodology Basics: The Nuts and Bolts of Sound Evaluation
E. Jane Davidson
C. Fitz-Gibbon, J. Herman & L. Lyons-Morris
Handbook of Practical Program Evaluation
Joseph S. Wholey, Harry P. Hatry, Kathryn E. Newcomer (Eds.)
How to Analyze Data
C. Fitz-Gibbon, L. Lyons-Morris
How to Assess Program Implementation
C. Fitz-Gibbon, L. Lyons-Morris
How to Communicate Evaluation Findings
C. Fitz-Gibbon, L. Lyons-Morris, M. Freeman
How to Focus an Evaluation
B. Stecher, W. A. Davis
Level Best: How Small and Grassroots Nonprofits Can Tackle Evaluation and Talk Results
Marcia Festen, Marianne Philbin