Harvesting Yields Through Grant Evaluation
Effective grant writers imagine every project’s long-term potential. Although we all must ground our work in our employer’s mission, vision, and values, the most impactful among us also consider the compounding repercussions of our work. From crafting the narrative’s opening sentences to the final calculation in our reportage, our efforts yield the greatest returns when we’re able to string a series of unified projects together. While many grants have required reportage, they often allow for flexibility in how one structures activities and measures success. Grant seekers must embed deliverables into their initial project proposals, but when done purposefully, planned self-assessments can both fortify a current project and shape goals for future submissions.
Whether or not grantors require outside project evaluators, successful grantees must track two measurable outcomes—time and money. When drafting a proposal, one must explain when something is going to be done and how it will be financed. Yet, the surest way to track accomplishments is to also designate the responsible party who will both complete the work and ensure the best use of the funding. Often, the person who oversees a step in a project is the principal investigator listed in the grant proposal, but one should also include the perspectives of additional grant personnel. It’s for these reasons that grant seekers should review their proposed evaluation plans as a chance to check their work for any inconsistencies before submission.
First, an evaluation plan should divide steps into concrete units of time that are consistent throughout a project. For multi-year projects, one could divide the work by years or quarters, but continual progress becomes more assured when a schedule is broken down into frequent check-ins such as months or weeks. Regardless of the unit of time, the goal must be to keep a consistent schedule to document progress. Grant proposals that have specific times for tasks such as completing paperwork, scheduling events, and capturing deliverables are those which reviewers can best visualize. Additionally, the more forethought put into the planning, the easier the actual implementation of the project.
Second, seek the input of the people a grant funds to better measure outcomes. When crafting a grant where a culture keeper is contracted to share one of their teachings, it would be wise to ask for their guidance on how to measure success. After all, if one seeks support for the perpetuation of language instruction, the actual language teachers are likely best equipped to define progress. Grant seekers must endeavor to make sure these outcomes are able to be assessed in both quantitative and qualitative measurements. Returning to the aforementioned example, one’s reportage could be crafted to quantify how many people completed a language curriculum, but it should also convey quotes that qualify why their success was valued.
Third, grants offer the ability to direct funds towards a project a community needs and for auditing purposes one must also track how the funds were spent. If each expenditure is tied to an evaluation activity, it is best to document work throughout the grant’s implementation. For example, if a proposal funds collaborations, developing talent, disseminating information, and the compensation of employees, then each of those budget line items should also track both measurable and immeasurable deliverables. If done in real-time, one will have them for both reportage and reflection for future planning. The proposal’s budget may have to be adjusted to accommodate these assessments during the drafting phase, but doing so offers the grant seeker a chance to check the thoroughness of their forethought before submitting their work to funders.
Grant writing is a discipline that affirms the wisdom of aligning outcomes with the well-being of the next seven generations, and we must view every potential grant as seed money to root our future work. This is not to say that one knows the outcomes of every grant proposal before it is both awarded and implemented, but rather that we center our work in evaluative processes that inform future endeavors. Planned, meaningful self-assessment of a grant’s goals solidifies a proposal’s potential prior to submission. Reviewing the results of that self-assessment illuminates how one should direct future proposals to build upon the success that seed money yields.
Ryan Winn teaches in the Liberal Studies Department at College of Menominee Nation.
Editor’s note: The opinions expressed in the Writer’s Corner or any other opinion columns published by the Tribal College Journal (TCJ) do not necessarily reflect the opinions of TCJ or the American Indian Higher Education Consortium.