While it may not always be possible – or even necessary – a key element in your evaluation efforts should be establishing baseline data, generally referred to as ‘benchmarking’.

This is particularly important if your intention is to measure change in either the short- or the long-term. If your evaluation efforts are meant to tell you how much the 'needle moved,' benchmarking tells you where that needle is now.

Two major questions arise in terms of your benchmarking efforts:

  1. What is it you most want to change and how can you measure that change? In general this should come directly from your program goals and objectives. Be as specific as possible.
  2. What do you know (or can document) about the current state of conditions? This could be a wide range of individual, social, economic, or environmental conditions.