Let’s make grant reporting more useful for everyone

There are many great feelings associated with securing grant funding and delivering activities that make a difference to people’s lives. It’s safe to say that the topic of grant reporting, however, rarely generates as much joy or enthusiasm. But what if that reporting was actually useful to you and your peers, helping you to reflect, improve, share learning and make connections?

Well, conversations in important forums such as The Gathering suggest that 2019 could be the year to change this. Through the publications of IVAR’s ‘New Principles for Grant Reporting’, we see more funders – including the National Lottery Community Fund – committing to improving their practice.I

The principles have been developed to make grant reporting less stressful and burdensome for grantholders, and they challenge funders to acknowledge that it is within our gift to ‘make grant reporting a shared, more meaningful and mutually beneficial experience’.

The funder blog force on this topic has also been strong recently, with The Robertson Trust and the Corra Foundation sharing honest experiences and clear commitments for the year ahead.  We share many of their experiences and aspirations, from maximising the evidence grantholders share with their funder to developing closer, more equal relationships with funded organisations.

We want to be a funder that is associated with these principles and positive practices. We’re doing not too badly on some fronts, but we know we can do better.

Our aim: simple, clear and flexible reporting

Starting with the positive, we recently asked some of our grantholders about their experiences of reporting and we were pleased to hear that customers found the process proportionate, relevant and useful. This year, we’ll remain committed to some simple goals for reporting:

We ask grantholders with grants of over £10,000 to report back on four things:

  • What have you done?
  • What difference have you made?
  • What have you learned?
  • What have you spent?

Grantholders can choose to report via a form or in another way – alternatives could include an evaluation, a film, case studies and/or a report produced for another funder.

More support, reassurance and focus on what’s useful to you

But we recognise that some grantholders (particularly new ones) continue to have some worries about open and honest reporting to us, and we want to change this.

We also know we could be clearer about what our expectations for reporting will be at the application stage, so groups can build this into their plans and so we can support with this.

Evaluation Support Scotland offer fantastic workshops and tailored support around learning, evaluation and reporting and we’re delighted to continue to offer grantholders free access to this support throughout 2019. Crucially, their support is focused first and foremost on what data and evidence you would find valuable to collect – not just what funders want.

What we’re working on: sharing the learning

A key area we’re committed to improving this year is making better use of the information grantholders share with us. At an event last year, a member of a community organisation said:

‘Funders like you must have cupboards bursting with information and evaluations. You should share more of what you know because we want to learn from it.’

It was a call to action, and a fair one at that. We currently use the information you share with us to check everything is going ok with your grant, to refer organisations to support if required and to connect organisations where peer to peer learning can be facilitated. We find it difficult to aggregate and identify learning from the thousands of projects that we fund, but we’re committed to trying different approaches to share learning this year.

As a first step we’re going to start tweeting snippets of learning we’ve gleaned from your reports. We also have ideas to hold more face-to-face events that could bring groups together to share learning, and to write up these conversations.

But we need your help to make this useful and relevant! As we start sharing stuff we’d really appreciate your feedback – – is the learning we’re sharing interesting and of value? Are there particular topics you’d like us to identify learning around? Would you like us to share learning you’ve identified from your work? How we best do this together?

NOTE: Please get in touch with your Funding Officer if you’re interested in accessing support from Evaluation Support Scotland.

If you would like to know more you can contact us at:

Mhairi.Reid@tnlcommunityfund.org.uk @elfmhairi

Rowan.Boase@tnlcommunityfund.org.uk @rowanboase

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