Before collecting data, you should decide on the expected effects of the policy or program on each indicator. This “goal” for each indicator, your benchmark for success, is often based on an expected change from a known baseline. Benchmarks should be achievable, but challenging. Consider how far along the policy or program is in implementation, your logic model and your stakeholders’ expectations.¹
Benchmarks for success are most often based on past performance. You may want to use the data you collected in Assess Needs & Resources to help set your benchmarks for success. If you don’t have data on past performance, you may want to wait until you have baseline data before specifying your benchmark. Another way to avoid setting arbitrary benchmarks is to review the impacts of comparable policies or programs, review goals set by other credible organizations (e.g., Healthy People 2020), and/or look to the evaluation literature for parallels.²
In advocacy/policy evaluation, it may be helpful to identify milestones (vs. “performance benchmarks”) along the way, to keep momentum going. For example, while a long-term goal might be to increase a state budget for early childhood funding by $75M, if $10M could be secured after a year’s effort, this would be an important milestone achievement.
1. US Department of Health and Human Services. Physical Activity Evaluation Handbook. In: US Department of Health and Human Services, editor. Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; 2002.
2. Michael Quinn Patton. Utilization-Focused Evaluation. Third ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.; 1997.