Evaluating Projects of a NORC Program

Taking Stock

When the federal Administration on Aging awarded its NORC program demonstration grant to the Allied Jewish Federation of Colorado, the federation hired the Denver-based Center for Policy Research to produce a portrait of Senior Connections and the community in which it sits.

After a year-long study, the center produced a report that included:

  • Basic demographic and socioeconomic data about residents.
  • Information about their living arrangements and interests.
  • Descriptions of available activities and measures of the extent to which they were used.
  • Resident assessment of quality.
  • A description of the program’s impact on participants.

Subsequent efforts to assess the Crestmoor Downs NORC program are likely to be the domain of program staff, rather than an outside vendor. Cathy Grimm of Jewish Family Service is comfortable moving forward with a more focused approach. “What matters is that we ask the right questions,” she said. “We want to know that what we are doing is helping.”

Accomplishing that, she says, means first and foremost knowing your purpose. “You should be very clear about what your goals are and what you want to accomplish. If you know that, your ability to assess the process will be much easier.”

While its current approach to evaluation is not elaborate, Crestmoor Downs staff recognize a basic responsibility to track program activities and ask clients how they feel about them as part of their reporting requirements to the Denver-based Daniels Fund, which provides core support.

At a minimum, program staff record the number of people being served, and ask residents to complete a brief satisfaction survey. (This kind of information is often collected in a process evaluation; see Designing and Implementing Your Program, Guiding Principle #6.) In general, Crestmoor Downs tries to gather qualitative information about perceptions of safety, knowledge of local resources, and sense of connection to the community.

“People think you have to do all this fancy measurement,” said Ms. Grimm. “But we have found that the simpler a survey is, the more apt people are to fill it out. We know our purpose. What we need to learn from seniors is: Are we fulfilling it?” Continued...

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