Author: Bianca Williams
So – you worked tirelessly on a high-quality grant application….
You submitted the application BEFORE the due date…..
Your application was successful…….
The funding was committed to delivering the identified program, then……
The program did not achieve its objectives!!
And NOW…..you need to submit a funder report??? Arghhhhh!!
A rare scenario, but none the less, a dramatic example to identify the importance of documented reporting processes and in maintaining a transparent and honest relationship with your Funders.
In a perfect world, every project would exceed expectations in outcomes delivered, come in under budget, and produce high calibre data to prove its viability. But, sometimes in grant-funded projects, new interventions are being trialled of which have associated risks (every project has risks!) and sometimes this means that the project just doesn’t create the expected outcomes. But that’s definitely not a reason not to report back!
Funders understand that even the most thoroughly planned projects can go askew. However, three key things will greatly influence a funders’ impression of your organisation and possibly determine if future funding will be granted;
1) Monitoring and Evaluation of the program – ensure your organisation has evaluation and performance monitoring systems in place to proficiently identify areas of the project that are working, and those that are not. Use these evaluation measures to inform decisions of whether the project is achieving its deliverables, and if not, how to improve your project to ensure every possibility for success.
2) Communication – maintain transparent and honest communication with the funder. Strategically plan your communications around key milestones, celebrations or updates relevant to the project. And of course, if things are going wrong, or if you need to make changes to your program based on what your evaluation data is telling you, talk to the funder and keep them involved in decision making! Make sure you’re communicating with the funder who has invested into your organisation as a partner in the project’s delivery.
3) Learnings – If things haven’t gone to plan in your project, or if you haven’t reached your expected outcomes, that’s fine, but get ready to answer the question ‘Why didn’t it go to plan, and what did you do about it? For funders, as long as your organisation is able to learn from the experience and clearly articulate those learnings, that’s an outcome! Funders want to know that your organisation is a learning organisation, so you need to be able to reflect on what you’d do differently next time. Was there something about the implementation that meant the project didn’t quite reach the intended beneficiaries? Or maybe you needed more concrete frameworks around your partnership with another non-profit? Whatever it is, you won’t be able to share those insights with your funder unless you have those monitoring and evaluation systems in place!
When you receive notification of a successful grant application, take that as the beginning of the funding journey, not the end. Often the reporting process isn’t considered until the very end of a grants program – but that’s far too late! You need to ensure that you’ve considered reporting from the word go.
You need a knowledgeable team to collect the right data at the right time to inform any required tweaks to your project and to be able to confidently report the outcomes (including your learnings) to your funder.
If your organisation does not have the tools and processes to capture the value your programs deliver, Strategic Grants offers several Evaluation Services to help you better understand and make better decisions on your projects, and importantly, report to your stakeholders on how well your organisation is meeting its mission.
So, be proactive – continually monitor your projects and ensure any relevant updates are communicated with the Funder. Lean into the learnings, face the music….and sing along with it!