Listen, I have been there. The first time you work on the evaluation section of a grant proposal, it is easy to find yourself staring at a blank page. What the heck does a funder even want you to evaluate? More often than not, the evaluation section is towards the end of a grant proposal, and by that time, you are just ready to slap some words on the page and be done with it. I implore you NOT to go that route. Instead, let’s talk about some tried and true methods for getting it done well–meaning not only will your funder approve, but you will have some quality data to truly help future programming.
With that end goal in mind, here are three tried and true methods for writing quality evaluations.
#1 – If you are writing a federal, state, or larger foundation grant proposal, it should come with a Request for Proposal (RFP) or other guidelines. Read through that with a fine-tooth comb. Chances are, the funder gave you instructions or crucial words that will help you determine what should be included in your evaluation. Key points to consider include:
- Does the funder require a third-party evaluator? If so, they will probably want to know whom you have already hired and their qualifications. If you have already hired an evaluator or evaluation firm, lean on them to develop this proposal section. If you have yet to hire an evaluator, the funder will most likely want to know the minimum qualifications for whom you will hire.
- Sometimes, a funder will dictate what they want you to evaluate. If that is the case, then you know what to write. Read the RFP’s evaluation section carefully, pull out important words and phrases, and repeat them back to the funder. It shows that you paid attention to their direction and program intent.
- Funders may use the RFP to highlight how the evaluation is tied to the proposal’s budget and goals/objectives section. Even if they don’t, those are two great areas to lean into. Your proposal should be a seamless thread throughout, and talking about how you will evaluate your goals/objectives and budget is a tried and true method to ensure you are measuring the right things.
#2 – No matter the type or size of the funder, it is an unspoken rule that funders are looking to answer two questions in an evaluation. (1) Did you do what you said you would do? (2) Did you meet your goals and objectives? This means you should complete your goals and objectives and the methodology/program description section of your proposal before you write the evaluation. Then use those two sections to explain how you will evaluate whether you completed your program as written and if your objectives were met. This is why having well-written objectives will help you. Each one should spell out who (or what) you are serving, the change you expect to see, when the change will happen, how much of a change will occur, and how you will measure that change. See, your evaluation is practically written at this point; it is just an augmentation of what you already wrote while also highlighting who will be responsible for carrying out that evaluation.
#3 – Whether hiring an evaluator or doing the work in-house, you will want to let the funder know what you will be assessing as part of your program. Think about all the things you can measure when tying objectives to an evaluation. Here are a few options often used by grant professionals:
- Number of people served
- Components of the program implemented – with room to discuss what worked, what did not, and how you will adjust as needed along the way
- Change expected as a result of the program – can vary from increased arrests (to help reduce crime), increased knowledge (with students improving grades, meeting testing standards, being promoted to the next grade level, etc.), increased number of patients have blood pressure within the normal range (to help people of all ages lead longer, healthier lives), decreasing commute times (to help with the community’s overall mental health)
- Milestones – list your program’s benchmarks and a timeline to help you stay on track with a successful program and grant management
- Budget expenditures – to show the funder the budget is being followed to ensure successful implementation.
No matter how you evaluate the program, the funder definitely wants to know details that dovetail into the rest of your application. So look over what you have written, and pull out the pieces that make the most sense to evaluate. And if you want more details on evaluations, check out the latest Fundraising HayDay podcast: How To: Evaluation | Fundraising HayDay (podbean.com).
We are celebrating our 100th episode with this evaluation how to. It’s a milestone we are more than happy to reach, and it is all possible thanks to you, our listeners!
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