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Grant Evaluation: The Most Overlooked and Misunderstood Part of Grant Programs


Grant Evaluation: The Most Overlooked and Misunderstood Part of Grant Programs

Evaluation is an essential component to any awarded grant, whether it is from a foundation, state or federal funder. Not only is evaluation important to you as the awardee in order to know if your program design and activities are being effective in making the changes in the targeted audience that you are concerned about, but it is important that you prove to the funder that you have succeeded, or are working to overcome the roadblocks towards achieving the outcomes that you proposed. A well designed program evaluation will also help ensure that you will continue to receive the specific grant funding for the remaining years of the award, and that the funder and others will have confidence in you to award additional grants in the future.

There are many elements that make up a successful evaluation, including having the right mindset or “buy in”, initiating evaluation at the onset of your program, and having a seasoned evaluator on staff or as a consultant.

What Your Organization Gains from Grant Evaluation

Your administrative, accounting, grant program management, and activity coordination staff are going to be very busy implementing the program in the first three to six months. It is easy during this phase for evaluation to be put on the back burner either because no one is really sure what to do about evaluation, the progress report isn’t due for six to 12 months, or it is not seen as being as important as getting all the activities started. Not only is it important for the reasons stated above and below, but it is wise that someone is designated the “cheerleader of evaluation” to communicate effectively to all participants, partner staff and awardee organization staff the value of their timely participation. Simply distributing a survey and/or filling a survey out can make a difference. If you need 100 completed surveys, and receive back only 27 because some of the teachers and students don’t understand the rippling effect of their participation, your data is not going to be accurate or reflect the true nature and success or challenges of your program.

Why Your Funder Wants a Grant Evaluation

Whether it is a federal, state or foundation grant, the funder’s department heads and/or board of directors need to be sure that you are utilizing the money wisely they have invested in your organization to assist the target population intended – whether it is the tax payers’ money for federal grants they are charged with overseeing, or the hard earned generations of family money of a private foundation. For federal grants evaluation plays a role in an even bigger picture. All of the individual awardee evaluations are compiled by the funder into one comprehensive report that is forwarded onto the U. S. Congress. Congress then uses this information to determine if they want to allow the appropriation of funds for this purpose in the future, drop the funding, or revise the type of program and/or outcomes they will require for the funding. With all the lobbying and special interest groups vying for a limited amount of funds, it is imperative that your contribution to this decision making has been gathered in an appropriate and meaningful way utilizing the right type of data collection instruments and methods, the data has been analyzed properly to come to a realistic conclusion, and that the report has been written professionally and in the format required by the funder.

Grant Evaluation Basics

Regardless of the scope of work for evaluation written into the grant application, within a month of the grant being awarded, a detailed Evaluation Work Plan and Timeline need to be created. These documents need to spell out for the first 12 months when the progress reports are due, when the draft will be initiated and completed, what types of data need to be collected in conjunction with the various goals and outcomes, what tools will be used to collect the pertinent data, when the data will be collected, when will the data be analyzed, and what the roles and responsibilities of staff and outside consultants, and participants are – i.e. who will distribute surveys, who will collect them, and who will draft and review the progress reports. Once completed, the Evaluation Plan and Timeline need to be distributed and explained to all key staff involved in the execution of the evaluation.

Do you and or anyone on your staff understand what type of evaluation tools should be used to correspond with the various outcomes? Would it more appropriate for your program to utilize pre and post surveys or focus groups, or both? Do you and your staff understand formative and summative performance measures? Do you understand the types of evaluation required by the RFP that were written into the grant application, such as GRPA or cohort randomized control trials? Do you have anyone on staff that has the time to dedicate to evaluation on top of her/his duties? If you have answered “no” to any of these questions, then I recommend you seek out an expert. Resource Associates has Ph.D. level evaluators who have years of experience developing Evaluation Plans and Timelines, as well as developing the appropriate type of data collection tools, administering them and analyzing the results. If you do not have the time or expertise to evaluate a program, please contact us to talk about your options and how Resource Associates can support your organization’s grant-funded programs.

Watch & Learn!

You can learn more about developing Grant Evaluations by watching our on-demand webinar, Designing and Conducting Effective Project Evaluations.

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