Solid M&E is a necessity for non-profit work, but the time and effort involved can undermine the process before it even starts. This M&E software can help you improve and push your organisation forward.
M&E, Monitoring and Evaluation, is essential. It shows us the impact of our programs, and highlights our flaws and mistakes. It takes us to task on our pretentions and helps us to do things better. It’s vital both when applying for grants, and recruiting donors and members. It can also be a daunting, sometimes overwhelming exercise, especially without the right tools. So, what’s the best M&E software out there?
M&E Software for Data Collection
Data is at the heart of monitoring. Collecting pertinent information that demonstrates the impact of your programs is the major task in M&E.
But it doesn’t matter how much data you collect if you don’t get your metrics and data points right. Logframe can help with that. It comes from ARQAAM and helps you match potential metrics to projects.
Identify your M&E needs early. This will make pulling data together a lot easier, and increase quality immeasurably.
Starting at US$159 per month (ODK-X is free)
ODK focuses on offline data collection. For anyone working in areas where internet connections are uncertain, this means staying up to date on vital data from key communities.
They also host ODK-X, a suite of open source and free-to-use applications for data collection.
Starting at US$208 per month
Magpi is mainly for creating responsive mobile forms, though with recent updates it seems to be stretching into reporting as well.
With integration, customisation, and a lot of support, Magpi has a lot to offer.
Data Collection Alternatives
There are a lot of data collection tools around.
Using Google Forms, Microsoft Forms with Survey Monkey, or Google Surveys, you can even do a patchwork recreation of what the platforms above do. That would come at the cost of some convenience and functionality, but it’s useful if you don’t want to commit to specific software early on.
Data Visualisation and Reporting
Once we have our data, we want to see them. Really see them. We want to dive into the numbers and pick them apart.
This is where we turn to visualisation and reporting.
Starting at US$70 per user per month (and a free, limited version)
Tableau is a hyper-functional, incredibly user-friendly piece of software that helps you explore your data. There’s a gentle learning curve with great output, which is pretty rare.
It can take your data and put them in a new perspective, which is exactly what we want with visualisation. Highly recommended for anyone starting out.
Starting at US$9.99 per user per month
A useful tool with a lot of functions, but the question often comes down to: Power BI or Google Data Studio?
The ideal platform for you is often the one that best fits with your existing systems. If you use Office 365, BI is for you. If you use Google, give Data Studio a try.
One thing is for sure, though: in terms of reporting, there’s a lot more out there.
All-in-One M&E Software
For organisations that can afford it, an M&E software suite that does everything is going to be a big draw. It’s more convenient in a lot of ways, and when working on a certain scale, that can quickly make up for the extra cost.
Free (for Humanitarian work)
If you’re doing humanitarian and development work, KoBo is completely free. At the same time, it’s difficult to find an M&E need it doesn’t address.
That might not be what you’re looking for if you’re working in less ‘challenging’, more technologically-accessible places. But for those in tough environments, it’s something of an M&E god-send.
Starting at €35 per user per month
ActivityInfo offers good depth for every aspect of M&E, with good functionality, too. It comes with all the perks of software as a service; the support, the on-boarding, the tailored fit.
It’s definitely worth taking a look at, but be warned: the price goes up steeply if you want more than one user.
Set-up starting at US$28,800, subscription starting at US$24,000 per year
The scale of the approach DevResults takes to M&E is reflected in the price. It’s on a different level from basically everything else we’ve covered here.
If you’re looking for something that tackles M&E in the most emphatic way possible (and you’re working on big programs), look into DevResults.
All-in-One M&E Software Alternatives
There is more M&E software now than there ever has been. Without wanting to sound like a broken record, what you need and want to do will define which one is best for you.
Monitor, Evaluate, Thrive
If you can get M&E right, your organisation will grow. You will provide better programs to your beneficiaries. You will have an easier time attracting funding in the future.
It’s almost certain that something here will help you to do your M&E better. Don’t hesitate.
By Kristian Rusten – NGO worker, data specialist, and freelance writer.