New Evaluation Project Will Help SBTHP Meet Program Objectives

By Anne Petersen

The Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation recently completed a comprehensive evaluation training and development project that will allow us to better understand and serve our community.  Like most small nonprofits, we lacked the internal skills and experience to create an evaluation program on our own, yet we understand that evaluation is a vital practice. An evaluation program will help us understand our current audience, and also what community members we might be missing with our programs. It will also help assess whether our programs are meeting our goals and objectives.  In fact, we prioritized creating an evaluation program in both our Strategic Plan and our DEI Plan, to ensure we take action on this important project. 

SBTHP’s Asian American Neighborhood Festival at El Presidio SHP on October 16, 2022. We tested one of our new evaluation models at this event.

Earlier this year we hired Bridging Voices-Uniendo Voces to assist us with training on evaluation and development of evaluation models and strategies that would fit our programs.  Lena Morán-Acereto and Gina Vanegas put together a learning plan for us and worked with our Program Planning and Evaluation Committee to conduct the training.  SBTHP’s Program Planning and Evaluation Committee is made up of staff, board members, and community members who are committed to producing high quality programs that meet our educational objectives and the needs of the communities we serve.  After conducting informational interviews with all committee members, Bridging Voices began our training sessions.  The committee broke up into three groups, each tackling a major program area: school and youth programs, public programs, and visitor experience. During each of the three training sessions, we learned about the components of evaluation, including the intersection of evaluation and diversity, equity and inclusion work; creating logic models; choosing an evaluation model; evaluation methodologies; assessment tools; and conducting evaluation with a focus on cultural relevance.

Between trainings, the three teams developed evaluation models related to their program areas, and visited with the consultants during “office hours” to ask questions and refine their work.  At the end of this three-month training process, each team presented their model and received verbal and written feedback from their peers and the consultants.

New bilingual interpretive panels at Casa de la Guerra, the focus of one of our evaluation training models.

Now that we have completed this work with Bridging Voices, we not only have three evaluation models for three specific programs that have been peer reviewed and vetted by our consultants, but we now also have the tools to create more models ourselves to fit any program needs. Creating the evaluation models ourselves, with support, training and coaching from our excellent consultants, was an efficient use of our small nonprofit’s resources; one that will leave a lasting impact and lead to sustainable evaluation of our programs.

SBTHP would like to give special thanks for a grant from the City of Santa Barbara via the Santa Barbara County Office of Arts and Culture that supported this project.

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