How Will You Assess The Success of Your Grant Funded Program?

You’ve been writing grant applications now for some time, and your success rate is picking up. You recently had a rejection letter from a foundation that reviewed your after school program and said they were unclear how you were going to measure the success of the project. They wanted to know how you will know your students are improving academically from your program (assuming that improvement of academic achievement was what you were promising)?

Every grant writer suffers rejection from time to time. It’s a natural part of the process and you’ll always learn something from the rejection. Grantors are becoming very sophisticated in their review process, there are so many competing applications and they must select only the very best. I don’t know this for sure, but I will guess that measuring success is the biggest sticking point for otherwise great applications. It’s not always clear how you’re going to measure your progress. For instance, if your grant application is to raise funds for a preschool playground, not only how will you measure your success (completion of the construction?) but what are you measuring? If you’ve promised that your playground will be a way for STEM subjects to be emphasized in your school, how will you be sure it does that? And why is this a good thing?

Every program and every class in your school should have a thorough assessment done before the end of the school year.  You may assess progress in any given program using a nationally normed test, a state test, or teacher-made tests, or a combination of these.  It doesn’t really matter what the process is.  The bottom line, as far as grants go, is that you have to know where your students started the year and how much progress they’ve made during the year.  You can only do that by properly assessing each of your programs. And sometimes hiring a consultant to help you craft an assessment strategy is a great investment.

When you get the results from your assessments, you should be able to quickly spot problem areas in your school.  Increasingly now with Common Core State Standards, there are so many ways to take academic test scores and massage them for data, that there is bound to be one set of data that fits your needs. Your state department of education has a place on its website where data from your school’s testing is looked at in ways you never thought possible.

When you know the problems your school is facing based on examination of data, and exactly how onerous they are, you can then begin to develop plans to eliminate or remediate those problems. But, here’s another problem.  Is it OK to ask for grant funds to help measure your success? Perhaps you want to hire a consultant to come in and provide an objective assessment for many programs in your school. Is it OK to have them evaluate your grant funded program, and use funds from the grant to do so?

Yes, but your grantor will want transparency regarding how much of their contribution is being applied to the program they’ve agreed to support. They may want to come to your school to observe this process and meet the consultant. This happens often and is normal, you do not need to worry if they ask to come in and observe. They are learning all the time too about what works and may want to take your assessment process and recommend it to other applicants. It’s all part of sharing information.

On your application, you can show the grantor how you determined that you had a problem and just how severe your problem is.  You then explain exactly what you need to do to alleviate the problem and how their grant money will be used to make the needed changes and improvements.  If you don’t have good, solid data from your assessment instruments, you end up talking in generalities while your competitors will be using specifics.

Most grantors also require you to include your assessment process in your grant proposal.  They want to know where your students started, how much growth they achieved using their grant funds, and the instrument you used to determine this growth. It is not a coincidence that this process looks like the one used in corporate environments all the time. Usually foundations and corporate funders are more comfortable with this model of data examination. It looks like theirs.

It’s the end of January (how the heck did that happen?) You’re coming up on exam season, spend some time familiarizing yourself with the assessments used in your school. Can you use information from results to compare your school to others? If your answer is a solid yes, you understand what it is you need to do in your next grant application.

Have fun, and let me know what you’re thinking. Comment on this blog.


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About Neva Fenno

Neva Fenno, M.S.Ed., MLIS, has been a special education teacher, school library media specialist, curriculum specialist and grants manager for several urban school districts in New York and Massachusetts for 30 years. As grants manager for 7 years, she managed up to $28,000,000 a year in federal, state, foundation and corporate grants from application through fiscal administration. She has hundreds of stories to tell, not all successes, but from each story there is a lesson to be learned.

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