So the partnership’s been struck and it’s time to pop the bubbly. But have you thought about how you will measure the effectiveness of the new relationship? Dr Jehan Loza explains the how and why of evaluating corporate partnerships.

So the partnership’s been struck and it’s time to pop the bubbly. But have you thought about how you will measure the effectiveness of the new relationship? Dr Jehan Loza explains the how and why of evaluating corporate partnerships.

More and more nonprofits and businesses are entering into corporate partnerships, but too few actually evaluate them to determine the impacts on the business, the community organisation, and ultimately, the community (ies) and beneficiaries.

Why do an Evaluation?

If you want to know:

How well your partnership is working;
If it is meeting its aims and intended outcomes;
And any valuable lessons that can be used to improve the partnership, then you must evaluate!

This involves putting the partnership under the microscope, asking questions about it, gathering and analysing information, and being open to learning from the results and acting on them.

However, many community organisations are already stretched to the limit – in both time and resources – and while an evaluation might require stretching these resources further, evaluations can be used strategically to:

Promote your partnership’s successes to key stakeholders
Build the partnership to another level and, as a result,
Attract further partners and/or funding.

Tip One

Identify your important stakeholders (business partners, government, clients etc) at the beginning of your evaluation and keep them informed of the evaluation and its findings.

One of the first steps of an evaluation is to decide whether to do it internally or to hire in an external consultant.

An internal evaluation will be cheaper, but the staff involved might have a vested interest in the outcome and objectivity can be compromised. An evaluation by an external, independent consultant gets around the issue of objectivity, and therefore lends greater credibility to the findings, but this path is also more expensive.

Tip Two

If you do not have the internal resources or skills available, and do not have the finances for an external evaluator, universities may be helpful in identifying a graduate student or researcher who can assist or conduct the evaluation on a voluntary basis.

Evaluation Criteria

Evaluations should be specific to the program being measured and the methodology used should be tailored to suit the partnership program’s size and reach. For example, if your partnership involves a handful of people, then informal discussions are a good approach. If the partnership and its program involve multiple stakeholders, then a more formal approach involving surveys, focus groups and interviews with a sample of people will be required.

Importantly, a partnership evaluation should address all or some of the following questions:

Why did we decide to work as partners? Are the reasons still valid?
Did we achieve what we set out to do?
What else has happened as a result of our working together?
What have been the impacts on our organisations and our clients/community?
Were the achievements worth the expenditure of time, effort and other resources?
Do we need to still work together to achieve these outcomes?
What have we learnt?
What revisions need to be made to the partnership and how will we use the evaluation findings?

5 Phases of Evaluation

There are five distinct steps in measuring a partnership:

Phase 1: Document the reasons and benefits of doing an evaluation. For example, affirm that your partnership and its program were implemented as planned and achieved its aims.

Phase 2: Determine the questions you want to answer. For example, how strong is the partnership? What impacts has the partnership had?

Phase 3: Write an evaluation plan. This should identify who will do the evaluation, what methodology will be used, and the timeframes involved.

Phase 4: Gather and assess the information and write the report

Phase 5: Determine next steps based on the findings. For example, will you use the report to adjust the partnership, apply for an award, use it as a marketing tool for other potential partnerships?

Do not let your evaluation sit on a bookshelf gathering dust. A good evaluation should support action around the implementation of realistic and practical recommendations and improvements.

Tip Three

If you wait until the end of the evaluation to think through what you intend to do with the report, it will be too late.You should have already determined the potential value of the evaluation at the very beginning of the process.

For more information on evaluating partnerships download the Practical Partnering Toolkit at