You’ve been awarded a grant and now the deadline for reporting your program’s outcomes is looming. Between writing other grant proposals, cultivating and retaining donors, or planning annual fundraising events, you don’t have much time.
Should you invest as much time and effort into writing the final project report as you did in writing the grant proposal?
Because grant reporting can be an additional opportunity for your organization to communicate your program’s effectiveness to your financial stakeholders, the answer to this question is always “yes.” Your funders will want to know that their grant is making a difference in the community and how you’re measuring your impact. Your report is an opportunity to demonstrate that you’ve been tracking progress throughout the year by providing qualitative and/or quantitative evidence of program effectiveness.
Aside from simply stating that program outcomes were achieved, how else can you articulate your impact and demonstrate you are a credible partner to consider for future grant opportunities? Here are a few things to consider:
1. Focus on Funding Priorities
As a key first step, ask, “what constitutes success to the funder?” The answer may be found by paying close attention to the priorities the funder has outlined. These priorities might include promoting accessibility to the arts or providing arts education and outreach. You’ll want to highlight how the program successes are aligned with the funders’ mission and activities. After all, this alignment brought you together in the first place.
2. Be Specific
Your grant proposal may have indicated specific metrics your program was aiming for. These quantitative outputs might include the number of performances or exhibitions. Be sure to select SMART goals (specific, measurable, assignable, realistic, and time-related), so you can realistically report your successes in this area. The same metrics from your grant proposal will be compared to your reported outcomes to determine if you met, exceeded, or didn’t meet your goals.
3. Determine Indicators of Success
In addition to the quantitative measurements, a funder wants to know how the grant award helped you to achieve short- and long-term outcomes by changing the perception, behavior, and knowledge of program participants. Using qualitative evaluation tools such as client satisfaction surveys or program participant interviews, allows you to collect and report on these results. You can also use the information you collect to build the case in future proposals for why your program should be funded.
4. Use Tools for Tracking Changes
It is important to stay up to date on the latest research on evaluation tools and methods for assessing the impact of programs. Both funders and grantees benefit from services such as IssueLab Results, a collection of reports and methodological guides focused on evaluation. Using these tools helps you to be prepared to write a comprehensive and compelling grant report.
5. Communicate Ahead of Time
Ongoing communication with foundation staff is key to reporting successful results. A funder does not want to discover major changes to program expenditures or to the program timeline through the final report. It is best to contact foundation staff ahead of time to determine if a formal request is needed to make major changes before the grant period is up rather than after the fact.
6. Share Challenges as Learning Opportunities
By engaging in evaluation activities, your organization can reflect on what works and what doesn’t. You should be using your evaluation results to assess whether activities are being carried out as intended, determine if the quality of your program needs improvement, or confirm the target population is being served. From there, you can tweak your program based on valuable feedback. By communicating challenges and demonstrating how you will use the data and feedback you’ve collected, you demonstrate that your organization is committed to strengthening your capacity to serve.
Articulating your program’s impact through a grant report is worth the time that you put into tracking outputs and outcomes. It’s important to set yourself up with the right evaluation tools so you can make the case that your program is a good investment for future grants.
Learn more about evaluation tools and metrics from Jenna during her live webinar, Funding Arts Programs: How to Articulate Your Impact, on February 15.
JENNA GONZALES is a program associate at the San Antonio Area Foundation in the area of annual responsive grants. In that role, she oversees the grant making process for arts and culture/medicine and healthcare. Additionally, she manages the Reggie Williams Resource Library, assisting library users who are researching funding opportunities. Jenna is also the supervisor for the San Antonio Area Foundation Funding Information Network (FIN) partner.