Balancing act: A guide to proportionate evaluation

What constitutes a proportionate and meaningful way to evaluate a programme? It’s a difficult but crucial question.

This guide is to help you think through what proportionate and meaningful evaluation design looks like for your organisation. In doing so it draws on the literature on standards of evidence as one way of framing what good evaluation can be. It also argues that standards only help to answer some, not all, of an organisation’s considerations when determining their approach to evaluation.

The main components of the paper are:

  • An introduction to the main types of evaluation, exploring the role of evidence standards in assessing evaluation design.
  • An outline of the key considerations to inform your decisions about the type and level of evidence that is appropriate for you.
  • A guidance table which links evidence needs and research questions to methodological options that accommodate different situations and budgets.

This paper builds on our previous work around impact measurement and evaluation, including our four pillar approach and our paper on using qualitative research. It takes a broad focus on evaluation (which includes impact measurement as well as other forms of evaluation) and addresses wider questions that charities may ask when thinking about evaluation design.

We would like to thank Lizzie Jordan and Peter Bailey at the Money Advice Service who commissioned and supported the paper.


The Money Advice Service have just launched an online Financial Capability Evaluation Toolkit to help organisations seeking to improve people’s financial capability. It includes a set of outcomes frameworks, indicators and survey questions for adults, children and young people, teachers, and parents.