Monitoring and evaluation are a key part of non-profit life. Measuring the impact of projects is vital. It allows us to confront our assumptions, see where we can improve, and prove that what we’re doing adds value.
Poor M&E is as bad as no M&E at all. If you’re struggling with implementation of an effective process or are looking at things you can improve, there’s software that can help. But what do you need? And where do you start?
The Comprehensive Platforms
There’s a lot of dedicated M&E software out there. The choices you make will have to be tailored to your circumstances. We’ll start by looking at solutions which try to give you everything you need in one place.
Open Source Monitoring and Evaluation with a Punch – Activity Info
Activity Info is an example of that. It’s a completely web-based, software as a service (SaaS) platform. It offers nifty geographical features which make it great for projects run over different communities. If you’re running large projects with a wide scope, this could be your best choice.
Web-based SaaS; starting at €4 800 /year
High Brow Monitoring and Evaluation – Dev Results
Dev Results is similar to Activity Info but markets itself more directly at global development. Unlike a lot of the options listed here, data collection is not a point it’s highlighting too much. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, considering most of what we see in that regard isn’t too far off what Google Forms does. There’s an impressive team behind Dev Results and they boast that they’re the ‘most advanced and flexible’ option out there. The downside is the price, which might make your eyes water.
Web-based SaaS; starting at $US 24,000 /year
Minimalist Monitoring and Evaluation – TolaData
TolaData is a much more streamlined, simple option. If you’re looking for something less intimidating, this could be for you. It’s clearly aimed at smaller teams and everything about it is designed to be sleek and elegant. It’ll take in your data and give you reports with minimal stress.
Web-based SaaS; starting at €588 /year
Digital Data Collection with a Monitoring and Evaluation Back-End – Mobenzi
You’ll find a lot of M&E software is heavily focused on data. Mobenzi is one such service. It aimed at the transition from paper surveys to digital systems. It carries multi-platform support and offline functionality. After that we see decent reporting on the back end, but it seems to be based on the idea that what you get out is only as good as what you put in.
Web-based SaaS; starts with a limited free option
Monitoring and Evaluation on a Budget – KoBoToolbox
Kobo is developed by the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative and is free for use by any humanitarian organisation. This in itself is amazing. It offers a lot of the same features as a lot of the SaaS options listed here, but for nothing.
The obvious drawback is the lack of support from a dedicated team that a paid option comes with. You’ll be left to carry out the process yourself, and that means certain limitations on how personalised it’ll be as well. But if you’re experienced in M&E and felt queasy when you looked at the prices above, this is great.
Monitoring and Evaluation Sidekicks and Accessories
Before you take the leap into full-service M&E software, think about what you already have at your disposal. You might not need an M&E revolution, just something to boost what you’re already doing.
For Data Collection – Open Data Kit
If you’ve already got a database and are just looking to digitise or improve data collection, there are a lot of options out there. Open Data Kit is a good place to start looking. They offer free and open source data collection software. Zoho forms, Magpi, and Fulcrum are other alternatives.
For Data Cleaning – Open Refine
Open Refine is a great tool for M&E and for data cleaning. Anyone in data knows that getting perfectly clean and organised data is very rare. We also know perfectly clean and organised data is essential. Open Refine will make data useable while cutting down on the demands of what can be an extremely labour-intensive task.
For Theories of Change – Changeroo
Good theories of change provide a solid foundation for effective projects. Establishing how your project will have an impact and communicating that clearly to everybody involved can help you get a lot more from it. Changeroo is completely focused on designing and implementing theories of change. It will guide you through the process from start to finish, help you to share plans with key stakeholders, and make adjustment as a project proceeds a lot easier.
Web-based SaaS; starting at €295 /year
The Bottom Line of M&E Software
The core of non-profit work is helping people. Carrying out surveys, sorting through statistics, and running endless reports isn’t really what we want to be doing. The more time spent actually working with stakeholders and beneficiaries, the more impact we’ll have. The right M&E software can keep donors happy, win new funding, and improve service delivery. So, if there’s something here that appeals to you, don’t hesitate.