PSGA Ken's Corner

Observations and advice on grant writing from the other side of the desk

The importance of grant reports

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If you’re in the South Sound or can get down to Tacoma on June 17th the South Sound PSGA meeting has a great topic: Grant Reports: Obligation or Opportunity.

Full disclosure, I will be one of the panelists, partly because I’m a funder and partly because it’s a topic I’ve covered before in presentations. And while I try to look at the issue from a broad perspective that applies to all funders, Sylvie McGee and Karen Pickett will also be on the panel. They have both worked with a variety of funders and can provide insights from that work.

The reason South Sound PSGA chose the topic is that it raises a lot of questions. After all, if grant reports were easy we wouldn’t be having this session.

One thought I’ll offer, and expand on at the presentation, is that there are two levels of reporting. First is reporting on activities. For a program grant it might mean citing units of service or the unduplicated client count. A building campaign might simply document progress on the building and in the end that the building is complete, open, and being used for services.

The other level of reporting is impact reporting. This can be harder. It begins by looking at the reasons you cited for doing the project. For example, you undertook to create a new food bank in River City because you felt there were too many people going hungry in that area. Your case for that may have cited anecdotal information, surveys such as the Department of Agriculture’s Food Insecurity Report, or some combination of sources.

Your case used those pieces of evidence to both suggest there is a hunger issue and that the best way to do something about hunger in River City was to create a new food bank there. Reporting that the food bank is open, operating, and how many people its serving is an activity report.

A funder may ask, “Okay, you’re doing what you said you would do; but is it solving the problem?” Connecting what you are doing to the needs is impact reporting.

Reporting on impact can be challenging for several reasons:

  • Your original data sources are too general or take too show changes
  • Your organization didn’t plan in advance how it would show or measure impact
  • You were just old to raise money so the organization could just do what it wanted to do

That last reason is the one you really want to avoid. You can work around for the first two situations with some advance planning and support from your organization. For example, that’s one of the rationales for Evidence-based programs. (You’ll have to come to the program to hear how that works.)

That third reason is the toughest because it means your organization isn’t interested in working with funders; it just wants to get money to pursue its own goals.

Finally, one last teaser question: “What if a funder doesn’t want a report or just wants a very superficial report; what should I do?”

You can get details of the June 17th event on the PSGA website at http://www.grantwriters.org

I hope to see you there.

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Author: Ken Ristine

40 years experience in the nonprofit sector; Senior Program Officer for a Pacific Northwest family foundation. Co-author with Goodwin Deacon of the recently published Grantsmanship for the Genius.

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