Skip to main content
Rural Health Information Hub

Evaluation Planning for Community Health Programs

Evaluation provides a systematic method to study a program, practice, intervention, or initiative to understand how well it achieves its goals. Evaluations help determine what works well and what could be improved in a program or initiative. Program evaluations can be used to:

  • Demonstrate impact to funders
  • Suggest improvements for continued efforts
  • Seek support for continuing the program
  • Gather information on the approach that can be shared with others
  • Help determine if an approach would be appropriate to replicate in other locations with similar needs

An evaluation plan outlines the evaluation approach, including the focus of the evaluation (such as an activity, intervention, program, or policy), evaluation design, evaluation research questions, data collection methods, evaluation activities, stakeholders that should be engaged, timeline, performance measures, key milestones, and costs.

It is important to establish an evaluation plan before the program starts to make sure that the evaluation research questions, measures, and methods align with the evaluation's goals. When developing an evaluation plan, rural communities may consider the following questions:

  • What are the goals of the program?
  • What are the evaluation research questions that need to be answered?
  • Who are the key stakeholders in the program?
  • What types of resources and inputs are necessary to implement the program?
  • What structures and processes are in place to implement the program?
  • What activities are conducted by the program?
  • What are the anticipated outputs of the program?
  • What are the anticipated outcomes of the program?
  • What contextual factors may affect the program?
  • What are the barriers or challenges to implementing the program?
  • Is there a return on investment for the program?

Developing evaluation research questions is an important part of evaluation planning. Guidance on the process for developing evaluation questions is available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The topic guide on Conducting Rural Health Research, Needs Assessment, and Program Evaluation provides important context for rural communities. For evaluation considerations for specific types of programs, see:

Resources to Learn More

The Community Tool Box: Chapter 36 - Section 5. Developing an Evaluation Plan
Highlights four key steps to consider when developing an evaluation plan, and includes examples and other resources to help in the development.
Organization(s): University of Kansas Work Group for Community Health and Development

Project Evaluation Plan Guide
Provides an overview of evaluation plan components for rural health networks.
Organization(s): Rural Health Innovations, a subsidiary of the National Rural Health Resource Center
Date: 12/2017

Tools to Evaluate Your Coalition
A series of four publications describing how to build coalitions and evaluate their effectiveness at various stages of development.
Author(s): Topaloff, A., Enderton, A., & Bregendahl, C.
Organization(s): Iowa State University Extension and Outreach
Date: 12/2015

Guide to Evaluating Collective Impact
Provides leaders of collective impact initiatives a framework for measuring and evaluating the effectiveness and impact of their programs and projects. Includes a 90-minute webinar to supplement the guide.
Author(s): Preskill, H., Parkhurst, M., & Juster, J.S.
Organization(s): FSG