Finding & Working with an Evaluator

Evaluators play an important role in shaping and managing the evaluation as well as in interpreting its results. It is, therefore, critical to reflect on how to best identify, choose, and work with one of these individuals, regardless of whether the evaluator is internal to your organization or an external professional you will hire.


Should I use an internal or external evaluator?

Whether you should use an internal or external evaluator depends on a number of factors such as the complexity of the evaluation, the resources available, and the type of relationship you expect the evaluator to have with program staff. The following resources:

  • Describe the responsibilities of an evaluator,
  • Help you determine whether your program is best suited for an internal or external evaluation, and
  • Help you determine what kind of evaluator you need based on your program goals.

The Program Manager’s Guide to Evaluation, Chapter 4: How do you Hire and Manage an Outside Evaluator?
US Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families
Two lists at the end of this document review the respective responsibilities of the evaluator and program manager. For example, the evaluator is typically responsible for training project staff on relevant evaluation techniques, while the program manager informs the evaluator about the program's operations, audience, staff, and about program changes.

Selecting and Managing an Evaluation Consultant or Team (.pdf)
International Development Research Center
This resource presents the advantages and disadvantages of internal and external evaluators. A section titled “Selecting an external consultant or team” explains how the goals of the evaluation determine the qualities to look for in evaluators.

A fundamental choice: Internal or External Evaluation? (.pdf)
Conley-Tyler, M. (2005). Evaluation Journal of Australasia, 4(1&2): 3-11.
This article takes an in-depth look at the factors to consider when deciding between an internal or external evaluator. Table 1 on page 9 provides a comparison of internal and external evaluators according to each factor.


Where do I find external evaluators?

While there are many ways to find external evaluators, the process typically involves either advertising a request for proposals or identifying and approaching specific evaluators. In addition to local, national, and online sources of potential evaluators, you may want to browse the sample MEERA evaluations and contact authors of evaluations that are similar to what you are looking for.

The Program Manager’s Guide to Evaluation, Chapter 4: How do you Hire and Manage an Outside Evaluator?
US Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families
Beginner Intermediate
This document outlines the basic steps for finding an evaluator and lists resources for finding evaluators.


Evaluator Directories

Several organizations maintain online, searchable directories of evaluators. Please note that MEERA does not endorse any specific evaluator; it is your responsibility to contact the consultants or firms to decide whether or not they will meet your needs.

The Registry of Outcome Evaluators
U.S. Department of Education, What Works Clearinghouse
Search by geographic region, individual/organization, target populations, or content area (including EE).

Find an Evaluator
American Evaluation Association
Browse all listings or search by name, keyword, or geographic area.

Directory of Evaluators
The Evaluation Center, Western Michigan University and National Science Foundation
Search by name, geographic location, and area of specialty (does not include EE).


Contact Evaluators at Local Universities


How do I choose an external evaluator?

Once you have identified several potential evaluators, how do you determine who will best meet your needs?  These resources offer qualifications and characteristics to look for and guidance for making an informed decision.

Finding an Evaluator, an excerpt from Enhancing Education: A Producer's Guide
Center for Public Broadcasting
This short and simple excerpt has useful tips on choosing evaluators and a list of questions to ask potential evaluators. One question, for example, is "What evaluation approaches do you think would be best to help answer our evaluation questions?"

How do I choose an external evaluation consultant? (.pdf)
Financial Management Board Handbook
Financial Management Board, Government of the Northwest Territories

Beginner  Intermediate
Chapter 1003 contains practical information on how to prepare a request for an evaluation proposal as well as tips for how to select an evaluator from among the submitted proposals. It lists what you have to consider before writing the proposal request and what questions you should ask for as part of the proposal.


Don't Rush the Selection Process


How can I work effectively with my evaluator?

Smooth relationships with your evaluator make for an easier evaluation process and are likely to result in a higher quality evaluation.  These resources explain how best to foster collaboration, prevent conflict, monitor progress, and provide on-going feedback.

Financial Management Board Handbook (.pdf)
Financial Management Board, Government of the Northwest Territories
Chapter 1002, "Working Well with an Evaluation Consultant," contains practical information on how to work with an evaluation consultant in several key areas: initial meeting, contract, project management, providing feedback, monitoring progress, payment, and deliverables.

Hiring and Working with an evaluator
Juvenile Justice Evaluation Center, 2001.
Pages 7 – 9 of this user-friendly guide describe the steps involved in working with your external evaluator to develop an evaluation plan and specify the evaluation products. Page 9 is particularly useful. It explains how to maximize collaboration and prevent conflict.

Evaluation Handbook
W.F. Kellogg Foundation
Beginner Intermediate
In Chapter 5, Step 4, the “Working as an evaluation team” section (pp. 65-68) highlights the importance of good communication, providing several interesting examples of evaluation relationships and explanations of why they failed or succeeded, and explaining why.