Using an External Evaluation Company

You may not have the resource or expertise in-house to be able to carry out the research required for your evaluation. This may lead you to consider whether an external evaluator could carry out the research on your behalf.

Things that may influence your decision are:


Have you got sufficient budget to be able to employ someone else to carry out the research?


Fieldwork can be very time consuming, have you got a sufficient number of hours available to undertake the research?


Any evaluation undertaken in-house may be subject to bias where the person undertaking the research may inadvertently influence the results. An evaluation may be more likely to be regarded as independent if someone not involved in delivering an intervention is conducting it. How important is this?

An external evaluator is an independent consultant who could work for a research consultancy, a university or be a member of staff not involved in the project/programme. If you're unsure about who to use to provide a proposal for your evaluation the Market Research Society has a Buyer's guide that can be used to identify potential external companies.

If you are asking more than one evaluator to provide a proposal for your evaluation it is important to decide the criteria that you will use to assess proposals received, eg. methodological approach, experience of project team, value for money. You may need to adapt your evaluation documents for an external audience and decide on the approach that you want to follow.

Once you've decided who you will approach to do the evaluation you will need to provide them with a research specification. It is likely that you have the content for this already but it may not all be in one place. It should outline the aims and objectives of your intervention/project/programme and what you want to measure through your evaluation. Within the specification you may want to guide the evaluator towards particular methodological approaches.

An example Research Specification is available here.

Where possible, define what is and isn't in scope and provide a timetable for the evaluation. You will need to build in time for clarifications and the sign off of fieldwork materials between you and the evaluator before the evaluation starts.

Example timetable

Timings Action
Week 1 Send out invitation to tender (ITT) - send out your research specification and ask people to respond with a proposal
Week 3 Receive proposals and assess them to decide who to appoint
Week 4 Appoint evaluator and confirm evaluation approach with them
Weeks 5 - 6 Development of fieldwork materials (this may not be necessary if they already exist). This is usually led by the evaluator but time does need to be built in to sign them off
Weeks 7 - 8 Fieldwork undertaken by evaluator
Weeks 9 - 10 Results analysed by evaluator (this could potentially be done in-house if there are the skills and resource to do so, especially in the case of quantitative analysis)
Week 11 Delivery of evaluation report