By John Nawrocki, Outreach Manager
Congratulations on winning a grant award! In this competitive environment winning a grant, any grant that required that you write and submit a formal proposal, means you did a great job. Many grants, especially at the federal level, often have more than 75 pages of instructions and if you do not follow them exactly, as in: use the correct font, adhere to section page limits, not exceed expenses for certain things, have all of the correct attachments and signature pages filled out properly and have the correct mandatory partners and more, your proposal that you spent so much time on will go straight in the garbage.
As if it were not enough to just follow the complicated instructions, you then have to put together a well-written, compelling narrative of often 25 pages or more that speaks to your ability to achieve the specific measurable outcomes along with a logic model that aligns with the funders’ goals.
So, it is exciting when you are issued an award notice. But you may also feel a bit nervous, especially if it is a large grant in excess of 100K. I recently had a client win a grant for $1.6 million over 4 years and it was their first grant ever! To be sure, this can be a bit intimidating.
So how do you make sure that you are in compliance doing everything the correct way to not only make sure that you keep the money to pay for the things you need to do but also to ensure that you develop a strong program that will be funded again? Once you begin programming, If activity and reporting requirements are not followed precisely you are in danger of not only losing the grant money but also becoming ineligible for new grant funding. This process needs to begin at the onset of grant implementation. If you do not adhere to these guidelines you could even get marked “High Risk”. If this happens, your organization will not be eligible for any more grants.
We don’t want this to happen. So what is the best way to ensure that it does not? The best way to make sure that your program is a success is to contract with a qualified external evaluator.
Most funders encourage each applicant to specify how the project’s evaluation plan will address the performance measures established by the Government Performance and Results Act of 1993 (GPRA). Applicants are usually encouraged to select an independent, objective evaluator who has experience in evaluating the type of program you were awarded funds for and who will play an active role in the design and development of the project as well as gathering data, making sense of the data and reporting to the funder along the way of the grant term. This is crucially important for a continuous quality improvement plan as well as for transparency and accountability. (The GPRA Act is for federal funds but it should be used as a guideline for state and foundation grants as well, in my opinion)
The US Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Children & Families estimates that 10% to 20% of the total funds for programs are usually set aside when the funder specifies an amount to cover the evaluation. As a guideline, the common standard for evaluation services is around 10% of the total project budget. Sometimes the funder will specify as low as 3%-5% and I have seen recommendations as high as 30%. If there is no guidance, stick to around 10%. In any event, you should always allocate some of the funds to pay for this essential activity.
Resource Associates, The Grant Experts, has been providing evaluation and grant writing services to school districts, colleges, universities and nonprofits nationwide for more than 24 years and we have provided evaluation services for more than 500 grants from small foundation grants to multi-million dollar federal grants. Our evaluation service utilizes objective performance measures that are clearly related to the intended outcomes of the project that will produce quantitative and qualitative data that is aligned with the project design. This includes benchmarks to monitor progress toward specific project objectives and outcome measures to assess the impact on teaching and learning or other important outcomes for project participants. This service ensures that you exceed the recommended guidelines for compliance and that your program achieves results.
Please let me know if you are interested in more information about our evaluation or grant writing services giving me a call at 505.326.4245. You can find more information about us here www.grantwriters.net and references may be furnished upon request.