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It’s no longer status quo for foundations, associations, universities, corporations and governments to assume that with good intentions alone, their grant program is producing the desired outcomes for the community it serves. Today, data is crucial to helping grantmaking organizations measure their impact. The most impactful grantmakers are able to back up their good-faith efforts with real results rooted in performance insights. By taking time to establish the right key performance indicators -- or KPIs -- from the beginning, you’ll be able to measure a grant’s impact over time and empower your grantees to better serve the communities you care about.
While data might initially feel like a secondary thought when designing valuable grant programs, numbers can be extremely powerful if utilized with intention. There are dozens of KPIs to consider, but the best ones for your organization are the ones that are specific to your grantmaking program’s goals and obligations.
We understand this can feel overwhelming. So we’ve compiled a list of KPIs here that affect virtually all grantmakers, keeping in mind that every organization will have a personalized list of factors to consider as well. As you get started, think of these KPIs as the general backbone of any impact reporting.
KPI #1: Collect Historical Data. When beginning to compile data for your impact reporting, it’s best to start at the beginning. To calculate the most accurate value of your grants over time, tally your past grantmaking activity. Consider your mission and goals, and then work through these questions:
By taking inventory of your trends and successes, you’ll build a strong framework upon which to make informed decisions.
KPI #2: Measure Grantee Participation. After you have your baseline historical data, it’s helpful to review how your grantee’s have recently been carrying out your foundation’s work. Look for any data here that gives you an idea of a grant’s momentum in the communities that align with your organization’s mission and goals. Consider questions such as:
KPI #3: Gather Grantee Milestones. At its heart, your foundation wants to collect information that teaches you about how the funds you’re allocating are impacting grantees and the communities they serve. Grantee performance metrics can be difficult to compile. Sometimes a grant’s impact is difficult to quantify because its mission spans years. Other times it may be because the goals it’s working towards are intangible. By taking the time to understand the right metrics from each grantee that best align with your organization’s goals, you’ll be able to adapt your grantmaking efforts and improve your overall impact.
Grantee success statistics can vary widely, but try consider things like:
You might consider surveying grantees and participants regularly through a grant progress report to find out whether or not the desired impact was not only achieved, but maintained over time. These regular reports can provide valuable information about whether a project is on track, how funding is being used, and what grantees have accomplished while receiving your support.
KPI #4: Analyze Progress Over Time. One of the greatest values you can bring to your impact reporting is long-term analyses of the grantmaking performance indicators that tell your mission story best. Through robust and targeted tracking and reporting, you’ll be able to educate your team on successes and opportunities. Traditionally, grantmaking organizations did much of this by hand. Now, many companies, foundations, universities, governments, and nonprofits rely on grantmaking software, such as ZengineTM by WizeHive, to collect, analyze and share data that helps foundations track mission-critical KPIs.
Grantmaking software helps grant managers compile and track data over time, providing organizations with customizable visual dashboards that can be used to evaluate KPIs and build rich impact reports, while streamlining overall processes. As you begin to analyze trends over time, you’ll start to get an idea of:
By reducing the barriers for current and past grantees to share valuable information with you, and using technology to consistently track, report and analyze grant activity over time, you’ll increase the long-term effectiveness of your efforts.
KPI #5: Community Impact. Key to your impact story is how your grant program is impacting the community at large. This grant performance metric might be more easily quantified by larger grantmaking foundations, such as corporate and private foundations, with larger-scale projects. But smaller organizations and generalist programs should also work towards this goal when applicable.
In many cases, public data plays a factor in trying to benchmark your organization’s work against community changes. For this, it’s helpful to think outside the box of the programs themselves. For a program that teaches minorities how to code, for example, you can measure the rate of minority hires for tech jobs over time. For a program that creates local jobs or entrepreneurship opportunities, you can evaluate how the program has impacted a city’s unemployment rate.
This is not an easy task and may sometimes require additional work and broader reporting that expand the confines of the program and its resources. However, community impact can provide invaluable information about how grantmaking activity is addressing communities’ fundamental needs and what tweaks can be made to further accelerate an organization’s mission.
If there’s one thing that we understand, it’s that effectively tracking grantmaking impact can take time and effort. Perhaps you already collect some of this information. Perhaps important information is spread across a combination of spreadsheets, databases, whiteboards, emails, and even, dare we say, paper.
To really understand the impact of the money you’re allocating to heroic missions, grant management software can streamline your administrative activity, KPI tracking, and impact reporting. By using a platform such as Zengine that’s trusted by a wide variety of organizations — from local and state government to corporate social responsibility (CSR) teams and corporate foundations – you’ll be able to track the metrics that matter most to your mission in one convenient place.
Once you’ve launched your platform and established your KPIs, begin setting up processes that enable ongoing tracking. This may mean editing your application to request more information up front, requesting additional data from current applicants or grantees, or sending out post-award surveys through the system. By consolidating grantmaking activity and associated data, your reports will be rich with accurate and consistent information that helps your organization meet and exceed impact goals. As administrative duties are streamlined in the cloud, you’ll be able to more easily communicate with applicants, donors, grantees, and participants; centralize and follow activity; track data; and compile reports that support your mission ROI.