If you want to have evidence about how your work makes a difference to people’s lives, you need to think about monitoring. By monitoring, we mean the routine and systematic collection of information that will help you to check the progress towards achieving your outcomes.
Sometimes we only start to think about monitoring at the end of a project, when we remember that we’ve got to submit report to funders. This is a mistake – when you’ve already done the work, you’ll have missed the opportunity to monitor your project properly. To get the most from monitoring, and to avoid a last-minute rush to gather evidence and prepare a report, it’s essential to start thinking about monitoring from the beginning, during the project planning stages.
Start by clearly identifying the outcome indicators you’re going to measure. Write them down, and make sure the whole project team is aware of them. Now decide how often you’re going to monitor the outcome indicators – every time people make contact with your services? Or on a weekly or monthly basis? Or just at the start and end of the project?
As long as you’re monitoring the right things, and have taken the time to think about the best way to measure them, you don’t need to gather huge quantities of information, or use lots of different methods. Focus on quality rather quantity, and be realistic about what you have time to do.
Have your tools for collection of information ready. Are you going to use questionnaires, interviews, focus groups or observations from different people involved in the project?
Monitoring is one of those tasks that can be forgotten, or can fall between job responsibilities. That’s why it’s essential to be clear about who is in charge of monitoring. It could be the project leader, a volunteer, or even service users themselves. The most important thing is that everyone is clear about what’s expected of them.
As obvious as it sounds, the person collecting the information should know who they should report their findings too, and in what format. Deciding this at the beginning is one way to make monitoring a practical process, rather than a wasted exercise.
Voluntary Action Westminster is a registered charity (no. 1068824) and is registered as a company in England and Wales with company number 03518124. Copyright Voluntary Action Westminster 2009