The trials and errors in the development and humanitarian sector in the last decades have been transforming the way development is practiced globally. The evolving development trends and practices include the heightened expectations of donors for more accountability, transparency and proof of the effectiveness of projects. The focus has now shifted towards a more quantifiable and data-driven approach to development.
How does this affect NGOs?
To meet the growing demand, NGOs are now under greater pressure to demonstrate development success to donors in a clear, comprehensive, compelling and innovative manner. This means going beyond just producing a good deliverable and calling it a success.
NGOs are expected to make their operations as transparent and accountable as possible – by providing a clear cut picture of where, why and how every dollar is spent and whether it’s contributing to foster any change in the community of interest. It is vital for NGOs to showcase tangible results and exhibit discernible improvements in the lives of the beneficiaries or the lack of it with clear data evidence. Data is key for NGOs. All the project-related, management and operational decisions must be based on concrete data instead of assumptions or hypothesis.
Successful development projects are thus grounded in careful planning, rigorous data collection, meticulous implementation, and thorough analysis and reporting – and this is where monitoring and evaluation comes into play.
There are numerous advantages of monitoring and evaluation for NGOs, but here’s a curated list of the top 5 benefits from our M&E experts:
1. Greater transparency and accountability
M&E gathers relevant information and data throughout the lifecycle of a project. This allows the project team to provide robust evidence for all their actions and decisions to stakeholders, donors and community members. On the other hand, stakeholders and donors acquire the information and understanding they need to collaborate, communicate, provide inputs and make informed decisions about strategy improvements and project operations. Additionally, M&E helps donors to weigh the efficacy of their funds in a project, which influences their current and future funding plans.
2. Improved project performance
A well planned M&E helps the project team to get a better understanding of the target population’s needs to design objectives that are relevant, measurable and achievable. A comprehensive M&E plan involves end-to-end indicator management, data collection and analytics methodologies to track, measure and demonstrate every little detail of the project, the interventions and their impact on expected outcomes. This enables the team to see their progress and identify gaps/shortcomings in the project as they arise and make timely amendments to achieve the desired results.
3. Effective resource allocation
All project operations are interwoven around project budgets. The amount of available cash dictates the duration and magnitude of interventions, choices of resources, number of employees etc. M&E is an effective tool for enhancing the efficiency and effectiveness of finances in project implementation. M&E facilitates with the estimation of the value, worth and impact of project components; and enables the team to verify what works and what doesn’t and where more money should be invested or where budget should be cut. M&E allows the team to make appropriate changes to the financial plan on a regular basis to avoid unfavorable contingencies.
4. Promotes learning & data-driven decision making
M&E data provides quantifiable results to help the involved parties to learn from project successes and challenges and be more adaptive. Involved parties are better prepared to respond to the ever-evolving project situations, determine what worked and what did not and why it did not work and how it could be improved and make improvements based on data evidence, rather than assumptions. The team is able to establish links between the past, present and future actions to improve project implementation and to identify what could be replicated and scaled up for sustainability of the current project and for future endeavours.
5. Systematic & professional management of organisation
M&E also functions as a performance management tool as it facilitates organisations to gather, disseminate and utilise information and data to improve their operations and add value to their organisation. Organisations can thus focus on their objectives such as enhancing performance, encouraging innovation, sharing and integrating lessons learned for continuous improvement etc. M&E also streamlines organisational procedures to achieve constructive coordination among different stakeholders and organizational units.
We hope our article stimulates curiosity and inquiry about M&E and inspires you and your organisation to make it an integral part of all your projects and your internal operations.
Got a point or two to add to the list? Send them our way!