Outcomes Provide Powerful Information
Evaluation is a vital component of any good fire prevention advocacy campaign. It's important, because evaluation tells you whether or not your campaign is achieving the goals you've set, and whether or not any changes need to be made to better meet those goals. It can also help you make decisions for future prevention planning and resource allocation.
Most organizations must undertake some form of evaluation to be accountable to funders and/or as part of routine fiscal management. Even if there is no requirement for evaluation, it's worthwhile. Evaluation is a process that is initiated at the outset and continues through to the end. Guided by your objectives, periodically determine progress and if necessary adjust your strategy based upon success of current efforts. This allows you time to make changes if your initial plan is not showing the results you want. Your documented measurement of the impact and reach of your efforts can help you maintain or secure funding for prevention activities.
Evaluation can also provide useful data and other information to supplement your outreach content. What you measure helps tell your overall prevention advocacy story.
Because a key element of local fire prevention advocacy is persuading the community to support funding for prevention efforts, your evaluation plan is especially critical. Being able to show that you are measuring the success of your efforts increases program credibility and helps you prove the connection between the investment in prevention and the outcome of less fire loss.
The U.S. Fire Administration offers interesting reading in its Short Guide to Evaluating Local Public Education Programs, available for download at no charge.
The Home Safety Council Expert Network Academy offers a free, online course for fire and life safety educators that includes a module on Program Evaluation. Visit the Academy's website.
Watch this 4:09 clip on Evaluation, featuring Angela Mickalide, Ph.D., MCHES, the Director of Research and Programs for Safe Kids Worldwide. Safe Kids merged with the Home Safety Council in 2011. While this clip pertains to educational outreach, the information that Dr. Mickalide presents is relevant for all prevention programs.
Home Safety Council, Start Safe: A Fire and Burn Safety Program for Preschoolers and their Families