A necessary component of strategic planning is an organization's internal evaluation. To develop a meaningful strategic plan, an organization should fully assess its capacities and the effectiveness of its work. This process establishes the foundation for realistic strategic planning and success of the plan.
In order to keep the implementation of a strategic plan on course, a timeline describing action steps and priorities and assigning tasks is usually followed. The organization will convene regular check-ins to discuss any adjustments that may need to be made to the action steps or the schedule.
The following publications can provide guidance:
LSC's Performance Criteria, revised in 2007, provides guidance for organizational self-evaluation and outside review. It has been used for organization reviews and the competitive grants process since 1995. The performance criteria is divided into four performance areas:
- Effectiveness in identifying the most pressing civil legal needs of low-income people in the service area and targeting resources to address those needs
- Effectiveness in engaging and serving the low-income population throughout the service area
- Effectiveness of legal representation and other program activities intended to benefit the low-income population in the service area
- Effectiveness of governance, leadership, and administration
American Bar Association's "Standards for the Provision of Civil Legal Aid," adopted in 2006, provides guidance for organizations to evaluate the effectiveness of their work. The Standards focus on both the responsibilities of legal aid providers as organizations that serve the civil legal needs of low-income people and the role of practitioners who represent low-income clients. It covers the following areas:
- Standards for governance
- Standards regarding provider effectiveness - general requirements
- Standards regarding provider effectiveness - delivery structure and methods
- Standards for relations with clients
- Standards for internal systems and procedure
- Standards for quality assurance
- Standards for practitioners
American Bar Association's "Standards for Programs Providing Civil Pro Bono Legal Services" was drafted to provide guidance to organizations that provide free legal aid through the use of volunteers. They are a supplement to the Standards for the Provision of Civil Legal Aid.
"Past and Current Efforts to Ensure Quality within the Civil Legal Assistance Community" provides an overview of efforts to address the quality and effectiveness of civil legal aid organizations. The publication was prepared by the Center for Law and Social Policy and includes descriptions of research and evaluations managed by LSC and its grantees as well as other civil legal aid funders.
Legal Aid Society of Cleveland Data Use to Better Meet Client Needs
In order to better serve clients and to allocate limited resources in a way that maximized the benefits for the community, Legal Aid Society of Cleveland collected client and case data as well as regional socioeconomic data. The organization analyzed case and regional trends and depicted the results in a compelling, easy-to-understand visual for staff, board, funders, and partner organizations. "Using Data to Better Meet the Needs of Our clients and to Inform Strategic Resource Allocation" provides examples of the data analysis process.
Legal Aid Society of Cleveland's data analysis fell into six primary categories:
- Tracking progress toward strategic goals
- Measuring volume of legal problems and levels of services provided
- Analyzing client and regional demographics
- Identifying unmet needs
- Gauging case outcomes
- Tracking client survey feedback
The analysis translated into several positive results for the program, including identifying unmet needs for clients with limited English proficiency, ensuring that clients served were representative of the regional populations, gauging effectiveness of specific legal strategies, and measuring progress toward strategic goals.
Community Legal Services 2017 Client Satisfaction Surveys
In 2007, Community Legal Services in Arizona created two client satisfaction surveys for its client communities in Maricopa, Mohave, Yavapai, La Paz, and Yuma counties. One survey was for individuals who were denied services and another was for clients whose cases had been closed after advice, assistance, and/or representation.
The individuals who were denied services were asked if they understood why they were denied, whether they were informed of the organization's grievance procedure, and about the courtesy of the staff.
In 2017, the program updated the surveys. One survey is for clients whose cases have been closed after advice, assistance, and/or representation; another survey is for clients who don’t keep their scheduled appointment; and the last survey is for clients who request legal assistance from Community Legal Services.
Sample Performance Measures & Outcomes
Iowa Legal Aid 2013 Economic Impact Report
In an effort to demonstrate the social and financial benefit that civil legal aid has on a community, Iowa Legal Aid published the report, "The Economic Impact of Iowa Legal Aid." By measuring the direct benefits for clients and the savings for Iowa taxpayers, the report demonstrated the value of legal aid. It measured three types of benefits:
- Direct financial benefits that enter the Iowa economy because of Iowa Legal Aid's work. This included revenue brought into Iowa from out of state and benefit payments to clients.
- Indirect benefits such as avoided costs for Iowa taxpayers because of Iowa Legal Aid's work. The study focused on costs associated with homelessness and domestic violence.
- The multiplier effect of what happens when new dollars circulate through a local economy.
The report concluded that every local dollar invested in Iowa Legal Aid resulted in a benefit of $6.71 to Iowa's economy.
Legal Aid of North Carolina 2013 Variable Outcome Measures
In a presentation to LSC's Promotion and Provision for the Delivery of Legal Services Committee, Legal Aid of North Carolina Executive Director George Hausen presented his strategies for recording and demonstrating several sets of outcome measures.
He addressed three sets of outcomes, each collected with a specific end purpose in mind:
- Substantive outcomes for grantors that are entered into the case management system by advocates in case closing.
- Economic outcomes that were created to demonstrate return on investment. They were divided by region and office to offer a comparison of performance in different parts of the state.
- Geographic outcomes that plot cases closed onto maps to demonstrate the penetration of legal services to eligible clients.
Bay Area Legal Aid 2017 Main Benefit, Recovery, and Outcomes
Bay Area Legal Aid created benefit, recovery, and outcome protocols in 2011—which were updated in 2017—to evaluate the organization's effectiveness in achieving its goals, objectives, and desired outcomes. The guide provided protocols for recovery and outcomes recorded at case closing. For areas where a monetary recovery was possible, specific charts were provided to ensure accurate calculations.