How a well planned service evaluation can attract new funding

Beat, the UK’s eating disorder charity, commissioned Fiveways to evaluate the impact of its Helpline over both the short and longer-terms.

We used our “value creation” evaluation approach to focus the research on the following questions.

  • What difference does contacting Beat’s Helpline make to service users’ knowledge, attitudes and emotional state? (these changes can be described as “potential” value – precursors to action but not in themselves action)
  • Does contacting Beat’s Helpline result in callers taking action? (this can be described as “applied” value – i.e. the potential has been applied and action has been taken)
  • What effect do those actions have on service users’ wellbeing, their confidence in recovery and their health? (these changes can be described as “realised” value in that the actions have resulted in the Helpline’s desired outcome).

To answer these questions, we conducted research amongst three different audience groups – sufferers, carers, and health professionals. We also examined the differences by Helpline channel – telephone, webchat, and email. Our approach was informed by a voluntary advisory panel of sufferers and carers with lived experience of eating disorders.

Over 750 Helpline users participated in our research which included online surveys (soon after contacting the Helpline, and then after 3 and 6 months) and follow up in-depth telephone interviews.

Our research revealed that 41% of service users had made some progress towards recovery just 3-4 weeks after contacting the service, a similar proportion agreed their lives had changed for the better in that short time. Importantly we found that these positive outcomes were sustained – with the proportion of users experiencing positive change increasing 3-4 months later.

We were also able to let Beat know which groups of users did not experience as much positive change and recommend how the service could adapt to meet that challenge.

Encouragingly, our evaluation report enabled Beat both to provide current funders with evidence of the service’s effectiveness, and attract new funders including the Department of Health, Welsh Government and Scottish government. As a result, the charity has secured to extend the Helpline’s opening hours.

“Fiveways delivered the evaluation extremely well. They are patient, understanding and genuinely committed to helping charities learn what they do well and how they can improve. Beat Trustees and staff were incredibly impressed with the report which has helped us secure new funding to extend the Helpline’s opening hours and respond to increased demand.” – Caroline Price, Director of Services – Beat