Summer 1988 // Volume 26 // Number 2 // Ideas at Work // 2IAW2

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Using Your Evaluation Skills


Frank R. Lichtkoppler
District Extension Specialist, Sea Grant
Cooperative Extension Service
The Ohio State University-Painesville

To justify the allocation of scarce resources to priority clientele needs, Extension agents have developed expertise in program evaluation. Often, community groups have the motivation and leadership to organize, develop, and produce a special promotional event or program, but they don't have the expertise or resources to adequately evaluate it. In these cases, knowledgeable Extension agents can play an important role in developing an effective research-based evaluation.

During the spring and summer of 1987, two special sportfishing events were organized in northeastern Ohio. The Lake Pymatuning crappie fishing derby, attracting almost 8,800 participants over a two-month period, was an effort to promote recreational fishing and stimulate economic activity in the area. The Ashtabula Trophy Fish Tournament was a one-day event designed to increase angler awareness of a growing Lake Erie trophy sportfishery.

Extension agent initiatives were critical in helping event organizers recognize the need for and value of a planned evaluation of the two events. Questionnaires were developed using the format outlined in the Ohio Cooperative Extension Service publication,"Constructing a Questionnaire." Agent expertise in data analysis and interpretation overcame the organizers' natural tendency to overestimate the impacts of the two fishing contests.

Seven businesses and a local evaluation team cooperated in randomly distributing almost 800 surveys to crappie derby participants. With only one contact, a 30% return rate was achieved. A phone reminder to each cooperating business before circulation ensured that the surveys were randomly distributed. The results were made available to the local derby organizers.

A press conference was called and state legislators and derby organizers were proud to announce that an estimated $1.1 million was spent by derby anglers in the local community. The average expenditure for each participating angler was $123.86. Almost eight percent of the respondents had never fished Lake Pymatuning before. No serious problems with Pymatuning area services or facilities were identified.

The Trophy Fish Tournament survey was distributed at a mandatory captains' meeting ensuring a 95% response rate. The typical tournament captain traveled 49 miles one way and spent $234 to fish the tournament. Participants' total estimated expenditures amounted to over $26,300. Over 55% of the tournament participants came from outside the county.

Survey results were used by the tournament committee to justify its continuation in 1988 and to focus on key concerns of participants. County and city officials used the results to help justify expenditures on future promotional events. Outdoor writers used Extension news releases based on the two surveys and provided valuable publicity on the recreational fishery and its economic impact.

These examples show how Extension agents can use their skills as program evaluators to help others produce community-based natural resource events. In both examples, Extension-led evaluation efforts were used by citizen committees to promote the community, aid in allocation of scarce human and financial resources, and plan for future events.