Results-Based Accountability™ Advice


 

3.17

How do we use performance measures in writing grant applications? 



The Short Answer


1. Funders want to fund things that make a difference in people's lives. If you can identify customer results (lower right quadrant measures) and use these to describe, plan, operate and evaluate your program you will be more successful in obtaining grants.


2. Be clear about the customers, the benefits to those customers and how those benefits show up in measurable terms.


3. Acknowledge where you need to get better in a data development agenda. (It is OK to ask for money in the grant for this purpose.)


4. Show that you have a process for regular review of the data and use to get better.


5. Don't promise too much. Allow a period of time in the grant where you gauge the effectiveness of your work before you set targets or goals.


6. Don't promise that your grant, by itself, will change a population indicator. 

 



Full Answer


(1) There are many places to submit grant applications: government, foundations, etc. Foundations are looking for the best use of their money. Government RFP's are usually implementing a specific law or grant program.


(2) No matter who the funder, performance measures and performance accountability are important parts of grant design and presentation. You want to show that you know what impact this has on people and you know how to measure it, track it and use it to do even better. 


(3) Most grant applications have a section on evaluation. (LINK TO EVALUATION ANSWER ABOVE) Don't be fooled into thinking that this is the only place to reference the development and use of performance measures. A good evaluation plan will not be something that is done 3 years after the end of the program, but will be part of a larger process of collecting and using data to run the program.


Many funders don't really know what they need when it comes to performance measures. 


So here are some tips in using performance measures in grant applications:

  • Make sure you are clear about the customers, the benefits to those customers and how those benefits show up in measurable terms.

  • Include both upper right and lower right quadrant data in your presentation. Acknowledge where you need to get better in a data development agenda. (It is OK to ask for money in the grant for this purpose.)

  • Show that you have a process for regular review of the data and use to get better. Don't make the grant reporting process to the funder the only way in which this is done. Let that be a byproduct of your good management practice in using data day to day. Show that to the funder in your response.

  • Don't promise too much. Allow a period of time in the grant where you gage the effectiveness of your work before you set targets or goals. If you make estimates of performance, make sure they are marked as such and build in a structured review and revision process - preferably one that is done jointly with the funder.

  • Consider using all four ways of reporting progress shown in the progress report prototype.


(4) Don't promise that your grant, by itself, will change a population indicator. A common mistake in grant writing and grant making is the failure to place the grant in the context of any larger strategy. It is common for grant makers to ask for proposals to change conditions of well-being for children, adults, families and communities. We know from earlier sections of this guide that no program or agency by itself can turn an indicator curve at the population level. So grant writers and grant makers regularly over-promise what can be accomplished with their money. The answer to this problem requires intellectual honesty and some courage. Because it will inevitably require telling people things they don't want to hear.


If the grant maker wants to use resources to measurable change population level conditions of well-being, then the grantor must first articulate a view of the larger strategy necessary to accomplish this change, and then place their grantmaking within this larger strategy. For example, a grantmaking strategy to reduce youth violence, must first answer the question of how such violence could be reduced by a comprehensive strategy, beyond the capacity of any one funder to accomplish (e.g. including such matters as gun control, changes in media content and availability, training in conflict resolution beginning in elementary school, universally available supervised after school recreation programs etc.) The funder then articulates their role within this larger strategy (e.g. conflict resolution programs in 3 area high schools). See the schematics at the end of the "Results Based Grantmaking" paper (available on the FPSI website).


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