We all know that grants are about results. In most proposal solicitations you will be asked to include an evaluation plan in your proposal so you can document whether you have been successful or sometimes that language “include an evaluation plan” is called something else. Some solicitations will ask you indicate what success looks like and how you are going to demonstrate outcomes on your specific aims through analysis (shhh – don’t tell them they are secretly looking for an evaluation plan).
Typically, in all federal proposals, you must include how you will evaluate your project by stating when you will do it and how you will report your results. Just as any experiment reveals much whether it succeeds or not, how your project succeeds or falls short will give you and your funder valuable information.
Here are some quick tips to help you develop and navigate that important eval section of your proposal.
- Internal or External Evaluation? Does the funding solicitation require an external evaluation? If they do, anticipate between 5 to 10 percent of your budget (unless specified in the solicitation) for a highly skilled external evaluator. If you are choosing to go internal for evaluation – be sure that your staff (or staff person) is skilled with evaluation methodology and understands how to measure and report on outcomes. If you or your staff do not have the capacity to take on evaluation, it is OK to bring in an outside consultant that specializes in external evaluation (LIKE US!).
- Goals vs Objectives. Do you know the difference between Goal vs Objectives? The words goal and objective are often confused with each other. They both describe things that a person may want to achieve or attain but in relative terms may mean different things. Both are desired outcomes of work done by a person but what sets them apart is the time frame, attributes they’re set for and the effect they inflict. Both terms imply the target that one’s efforts are desired to accomplish. Goals are generically for an achievement or accomplishment for which certain efforts are put. Objectives are specific targets within the general goal. Objectives are time-related to achieve a certain task. Knowing the difference between the two will help with the measurement of outcomes and answering the question “What does success look like?” Need a little more guidance? This website has a great tutorial on Goals & Objectives which explains further.
- Data, Data, Data, and more Data. Decide if you will use quantitative or qualitative methods for your data collection, or what combination of the two types you will use. Develop a good description of these methods and why you’re using them. Be sure you are able to describe in detail the type of data you are collecting and how you will be measuring it.
- Be sure to align to your proposal: Make sure the evaluation component of your proposal connects with the proposal’s objectives and methods, and overall focus. If the targets and methods are measurable and time-specific, the evaluation will be easier to design. There is nothing like trying to evaluate a project where someone writes in broad high-level expectations of “we are going to cure cancer” or “develop restful API” for a project that is slated to run six months with no real metrics to support it. Not realistic, not time specific, and no indicator of the type of data being collected.
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