Regardless of your role in theological education, you will invariably participate in some form of assessment and evaluation — of a program or initiative, of student learning, of human resources or personnel, of alumni or board engagement, or of institutional effectiveness. This process of gathering information is an important way to gain insight and make improvements. Evaluation allows for reflection, review, and perhaps a revisit. Reflect on what has been done. Review the impact or results. And revisit, retool, and reassess for the future.
In 2018, In Trust Center board members, staff, and an outside consultant began designing an institutional evaluation to begin in 2019. Why? One reason: an important component of our strategic plan is to be a values-based organization, and assessment and evaluation are integral to this objective. Our plan was to invite an external evaluation by our member schools and affiliates, to conduct an internal assessment, and finally to ask the In Trust Center board to engage in its own self-assessment.
Our goals for this evaluation were to model wise practices and practice what we preach, to ensure that we are good stewards of our resources, to maximize the gifts of our staff and board, and to make the best use of our financial assets. Another goal was to understand how you — our readers, the people affiliated with our member schools and affiliates — experience In Trust magazine, our webinars, our Resource Consulting, and the resources on our website. To determine if there have been shifts in the expectations of our constituents over time, we also wanted to compare the feedback from this evaluation to the results from our last evaluation in 2014. Do you value our work? What do you find most valuable? Are there other resources you need today? What threats do you see on the horizon, and how can the In Trust Center help you as you fulfill your mission?
We received a 21 percent response to the email survey we sent in April to everyone in our database for whom we had a valid email address. Thank you! When coupled with responses to the surveys we sent in the mail to magazine subscribers for whom we did not have e-mail addresses, we received responses from more than 900 people. An overview of the results can be found on pages 2 and 3.
We believe that evaluation should be a part of every institution’s cycle and culture. All of us need to test our assumptions, hear from our stakeholders, and remain open to learning.
What are you regularly evaluating?
Three takeaways from the In Trust Center evaluation
- Don’t think of evaluation in isolation. Consider how to incorporate all areas of the institution and all stakeholders in the process.
- Begin at the end. Answer questions like “What is the end goal?” and “What will we do with the information?” before you start.
- Share what you learn. Never ask stakeholders to participate in a survey or process without sharing what you learn and what you intend to do with it.