Resources on Program Evaluation and Performance Measurement

Through its Office of Research & Analysis (ORA), the National Endowment for the Arts pledges to promote public resources that can help grantees and other organizations to document the effectiveness and impact of their arts programs.

The following list, while not exhaustive, offers information and practices supporting program evaluation and performance measurement in the arts.

As ORA intends to update this list periodically, we welcome suggestions of other resources—e.g., reports, metrics, toolkits, or other materials—that can help arts organizations to design and implement their own evaluation and measurement strategies.

Contact: NEA Office of Research & Analysis

Program Evaluation

Program evaluations are systematic studies conducted periodically or on an ad hoc basis to assess the design, implementation, or outcomes of a program. They are often conducted by experts external to the program, either inside or outside the program’s lead organization, working closely with program managers. While professional evaluators are often best suited to conduct these studies, arts organizations may reach out to regional colleges and universities to explore whether faculty, students, coursework, curricula, and affiliated research centers can offer technical support for evaluation projects.

Online Resources

  • As a nationwide association of professional program evaluators, the American Evaluation Association curates a collection of online resources, including a searchable “find an evaluator” directory and a collection of links to multiple web-resources related to evaluation, including online, multi-chapter documents focusing on the "how to's" of evaluation-related subjects.
  • The W.K. Kellogg Foundation’s Evaluation Handbook is an introductory guide to planning and conducting project evaluations.
  • The W.K. Kellogg Foundation Logic Model Development Guide introduces the staff of nonprofits and community members to the underlying principles of logic modeling. Logic models present assumptions about how a program's actions are supposed to achieve intended outcomes; it often forms the basis for planning an evaluation.
  • The Foundation Center’s GrantCraft service offers some evaluation resources, including this guide to using a Theory of Change to guide planning and evaluation.
  • Evaluation Roundtable, a network of foundation evaluation leaders in the U.S., Canada, and the UK. Includes case studies and other resources about evaluation strategies and processes.
  • Better Evaluation, an international collaboration to improve evaluation practice and theory. Includes resources on how to plan and manage an evaluation study.

Resources for Evaluating Arts Projects:

Some Noteworthy Examples of Program Evaluation in the Arts

Arts Education

The Turnaround Arts Initiative Final Evaluation Report describes and analyzes impacts from the pilot cohort of the Turnaround Arts schools program at the end of its second year. Summaries cover: 1) a theory of action and program “pillars”; 2) an evaluation design and research questions; 3) a discussion of program implementation, and 4) outcomes and trends in school reform indicators and in student achievement.

The Arts Infusion Initiative, 2010–15: Evaluation Report marked the first large-scale evaluation of the Chicago Community Trust’s Arts Infusion Initiative, designed to: (1) assess the degree to which the project was achieving its intended purposes and (2) generate actionable information for promoting effective Arts Infusion practices.

Creative Placemaking

The Adding It Up: An Evaluation Report of Arts on Chicago & Art Blocks report presents findings from two of Pillsbury House + Theatre’s “creative community development” projects, Art Blocks and Arts on Chicago. The evaluation focused on whether and how these projects increased levels of residents’ community attachment, agency, and arts and cultural access.

Our Town Theory of Change and Logic Model

The Porch Light Program Evaluation Report presents findings from a four-year evaluation of the Porch Light Program, a collaborative endeavor of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program and the Philadelphia Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual Disability Services. Porch Light creates public murals that seek to transform neighborhoods and promote the health of the neigh­borhood residents and individuals who help create the murals.

Performance Monitoring

Leaders of nonprofit organizations and their funders are often interested in monitoring and reporting program accomplishments. Performance monitoring produces information that can be used to support day-to-day operations and to help organizational staff make strategic and budgetary decisions. For example, theaters often track ticket sales by performance and season, while museums may monitor changes in visitor attendance by exhibition. Performance monitoring allows organizations to respond proactively to the immediate and longer-term results of their arts programming.

Online Resources

Measuring What Matters in Nonprofits, originally published in the McKinsey Quarterly, models an approach to performance metrics development in nonprofit organizations.

The Corporation for National & Community Service provides a Performance Measurement Core Curriculum with a thorough introduction to key performance measurement concepts including theory of change, evidence, performance measures, and data collection and instruments.

Resources for Monitoring the Performance of Arts Organizations

The Public Value Measurement Framework – Measuring the Quality of the Arts presents the results of pioneering work in Australia to develop standardized performance indicators for arts and culture.

The Urban Institute has published a set of Candidate Outcome Indicators for Performing Arts Organizations and suggested methods of data collection.

Arts Performance Monitoring Examples