22 Feb Tips on High Quality Grant Reporting by Hayley Waynick, GPC
Creating a high-quality grant report is a key step in fostering a lasting relationship with your funders. This step can often be overlooked and undervalued in relation to the time investment it deserves. Reports are your chance to show the funder how the program or project is progressing, how you are meeting the stated goals in your proposal, what lessons you’ve learned, and how you are improving defined outcomes for your target population. It’s a key communication piece in your ongoing relationship with funders and can influence future grant awards. With some funders it can seem like your grant report is sent off into the abyss and never read. But just because reports don’t always necessarily get a response or direct feedback, don’t assume your funder isn’t paying close attention.
As a grant writer, it’s your role to manage and oversee the completion of grant reports with help from key staff members. Below are several tips for ensuring a successful, high-quality report!
1) Communicate effectively. When you are awarded the grant, ensure that report due dates are recorded (using excel spreadsheets, funder databases such as Raisers Edge/prospect module, or any other grant database or tracking software your organization subscribes to). Formalize a process for communicating report requirements with finance and key program staff. You can create a template called a “Grant Summary Report” that has key dates and information regarding the grant (such as grant amount, grant manager, purpose, contact info, report dates, grant period, etc). Send calendar requests to staff to manage deadlines and even consider having a grant award meeting to go over reporting details for larger grants.
2) Monitor spending and outcomes. Be sure key staff know what money they are responsible for spending and ensure they have proper instructions on how to indicate on receipts, etc. that money should be charged to each particular grant. Many times, staff are given a grant code or use the funder’s name when turning in receipts. Consider working with your finance department to set up checkpoints throughout the grant period so you know spending is on time and on track with interim and final reports. When reporting on outcomes, don’t wait until the final hour to begin pulling data. Set checkpoints with your program staff or Quality Assurance officer to be sure data points and client outcomes are being tracked effectively and efficiently. Give plenty of notice prior to the report on what data you will need and when.
3) Who should write the report? Good question…it depends on your staff. Get to know their strengths and preferences. While some program leaders are exceptional at writing their own reports, some will need your assistance. Regardless, as the grant writer you are ultimately responsible for the final product, so use those editing skills to refine the report! Offer staff plenty of options on ways to get you info; send them the questions and ask for responses, ask for bulleted lists on progress, or offer to do a phone call or face to face meeting to gather information. Be clear on exactly what info you are going to need in order to answer the funder’s questions. And don’t forget to include a story!
4) Be Transparent. Outcomes didn’t come out as expected? The project changed course? Your funders want to know this and they appreciate when you are honest about the lessons you’ve learned along the way. A high-quality grant report does not have to be full of only good news and shining outcome results. Always consider when it’s appropriate to notify funders of major changes prior to turning in grant reports. For example, if the project budget has changed significantly or you have decided to focus on a different target population, a key staff is gone or you didn’t meet significant goals, don’t wait until the final report to tell the funder; they will greatly appreciated the heads up and the majority of the time will understand. If a project has significantly changed course, a site visit or tour might be the best way to help the funder see firsthand and understand why.
Be clear, be concise, be honest, communicate, and be on time and you will be successful in providing a high-quality grant report that will show the funder you are a good steward of their dollars!
GPC Competency 5: Knowledge of post-award grant management practices sufficient to inform effective grant design and development. Skill 4: Identify methods of establishing transitions to post-award implementation that fulfill project applications (e.g., document transfer, accuracy, in post-award fiscal and activity reporting).