Impact is a buzz word in grantmaking, and it is truly invaluable for funders to know how their grants have made a difference so they can continually improve how they give out money. But just as foundations have begun to make the grant application simpler and more straightforward to reduce barriers to funding, progress reports need to be kept clear and easy to complete. Here's how to request the stats that you really need to tell your mission story and educate your team on successes and opportunities.
Grant progress reports can tell us a lot of things: if a project is on track, how funding is being used, and what your grantees have accomplished while receiving your support. But these reports can also provide valuable information that help the organization at large learn how to create and nurture programs and how to better serve the populations we aim to uplift. The trouble is, coming up with a grant progress report that's helpful for you but simple for grantees isn't always easy. Here are five tips to help both you and your grantees generate progress reports that tell a bigger, more impactful story and identify new opportunities for the future.
1. Start With the Positives
The grants progress report is your grantees’ time to shine: Encourage them to describe what their program has accomplished at this particular stage in its lifecycle. This could take the form of quantitative data (for instance, the number of meals served, the age range of children participating in a program, an increase in GPA in tutored people) or qualitative descriptions (see tip #4 for more information on this). If grantees are able to visualize this data with a chart or graph, all the better! They should give stakeholders plenty to reflect on — and take an opportunity to show off their accomplishments!
2. Address Any Hurdles
Every program experiences problems — that’s just a fact of life. A grant progress report is a good opportunity for grantees to address those problems before they grow into serious issues and propose solutions. You may even be able to help by sharing how another grantee tackled a similar problem, or by connecting them with a resource they are not aware of. Creating this type of transparency between your organization and grantees can only better the relationship and contribute to their ability to deliver on intended results.
3. Propose Changes
Grantees should review their original grant application to determine if any changes need to be made to their processes, timeline, or objectives. Remember: there’s nothing wrong with making adjustments — if a program element is not working, it’s far better to change it at this point in the project’s lifecycle than to prevent a project from reaching its full potential. Grantees should list these proposed changes and be upfront about any major impacts (financial or otherwise) that could potentially arise as a result.
4. Tell The Program’s Story
Data and numbers can only say so much. Sometimes, in order to better understand the impact of a program, one needs to use pictures, quotes, or other creative forms of storytelling. Here are some prompts to get your grantees’ words flowing:
How has this project affected participating individuals? How has it affected a community or larger population?
What have participants said about the program? How do they describe the benefits?
Is there a story that sticks out in your mind, of a person who benefited from the program, a connection made, a life change?
A well-told story can stick in stakeholders’ minds better than raw data. But take care to protect participants’ privacy or get permissions when using a participant’s full name, photograph, or other identifying features.
5. List Conclusions...and What’s Next
It’s helpful to end a grant progress report with a summary describing one’s conclusions: How would you rate your program’s success so far? What are the lessons that you have learned? And what are the next steps that you intend to take? Grantees should end on a positive note and take pride in the important work that’s been accomplished so far.
If you or your grantees have ever dreaded this part of the grantmaking process, take heart in the growing popularity of grants management systems that let grantees compile, report, and submit grant progress reports using a single online hub. Modern grants management software allows grantees to track their progress on a streamlined web-based platform that make creating reports quick and easy. Look for systems that offer convenient access to a grant’s full records, such as the original application, and let stakeholders track progress at any phase of a project’s cycle.