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How to fill in the evaluation questions in funding applications: tips for small groups

The funding application is where you set out your monitoring and evaluating plans and the changes you anticipate will occur as a result of your work. Writing the application is the last stage; the planning is the bulk of the work.

Most funders will ask you the following monitoring and evaluation-related questions:

  • track record of your organisation
  • how you know there is a need for your work
  • what you are going to do with their funding
  • how you will know your suggested approach will work
  • what difference your project will make
  • how you will know that you have made a difference.

Tips on how to answer these and how to budget for evaluation are explored below.

Things you'll need

  • A funding application!
1

Demonstrate your track record

Funders want to know that you have successfully managed other projects, funded or otherwise. To demonstrate this, you could:  

  • Draw on annual reports, media coverage, testimonials and endorsements.
  • Review and summarise evaluation reports from previous projects. Describe the outcomes you have achieved from previous projects. 
  • Describe the scale of your work, for example the number of people or groups involved in your work.
  • Think through what else you and your team have achieved, including project developments and other funding successes.
  • Include any work you are doing with other organisations. It is important to show that you are open to collaboration. 
  • If you are developing a brand new service, you may need to run some small pilot events or services, or draw on your team’s experience of running other projects successfully. 
2

Evaluate whether there is a need for the project

Funders want to understand how your group knows there is a need for your project. Even if you are an expert in knowing what your community wants/needs, you still need evidence of this for other people.

Before commencing any project, you need an evidence-gathering stage. You could carry out your own research (primary research), often referred to as a needs assessment or a community consultation. This is often about allowing your intended beneficiaries to talk about their needs, what they would like from any project, and what they would find useful. Remember that it need not all be negative – you can ask them about community assets too. You could use methods like meetings, surveys, interviews, focus groups, community conferences/ events and creative methods to find out what people think.

You could also:

  • Research what others have written on the topic (secondary research). 
  • Evaluate a previous project or intervention to demonstrate need.
  • Keep a waiting list of those who have expressed an interest.  
  • Find out if there are any gaps in provision – maybe there is no advice provision locally, meaning that your clients cannot get any support locally. 
3

Be clear with your intentions

Funders will want to see details of how you intend to spend the grant: who is going to run the project, how, what are they going to deliver and when.

You will need to set out your project outputs. Define the services, products or facilities that you plan to deliver. Stating that you plan to run an advice and information project for refugees is not sufficient. You need to be very specific about what you will deliver; you need to describe how many services you will offer, when and for whom. For example:

  • We will employ a part-time project coordinator, three days per week.
  • We will run ten social events per year, each attended by a minimum of 20 local refugees families.
  • We will have a graduation ceremony in December attended by local decision-makers.
4

Explain why your approach will work

Some funders also wish to understand how you know that your approach will work. Once again, use research and evidence to explain why you have chosen the best intervention to meet your beneficiaries’ needs. Talk about the following:

  • You might be an expert on the topic or have in-house expertise.
  • Show learning from previous projects – ones that worked or did not work.
  • You may have seen other groups running something similar.
  • Your needs assessment could have identified that your intended beneficiary group want this approach.
  • You may have done some research into the best methods, or you could present research others have conducted.
  • You may have spoken to subject experts.
  • It may be that there is a lack of the type of work you do.

You may wish to describe any other options you considered and explain why the one you’ve chosen is the best way to meet need and bring about your project outcomes.

5

Define the outcomes of your work

Funders want you to define the outcomes of your work. By outcomes we mean the differences, changes, benefits, learning or other effects that result from the work your project will deliver. These changes might be for individuals, families, communities or the environment.

Defining your outcomes can be challenging and should be something that your organisation and clients help you with. Your outcomes ought to directly reflect the needs of your clients.

Some examples of outcomes include:

  • increased awareness within the local community of benefits entitlements
  • clients’ access to legal support increases
  • improved attendance at school.

Setting targets will help you describe what your organisation wants to achieve. Good targets take into account:

  • your available resources
  • what you have achieved before
  • needs assessments
  • what other organisations have achieved.

Here are some examples of outcome targets:

  • 60% of users will continue to live independently
  • 25% will take part in computer training and achieve a certificate
  • 25% will start voluntary work or community activity.
6

Evaluate whether you have made a difference

Remember that people who don’t know your project will need evidence that it works. Almost all voluntary organisations now collect at least basic data on what services they deliver and to whom. Many now also collect data on the changes they bring about and funders increasingly expect this. 

Funders want to see that you have a monitoring system in place to assess the progress of your project. The key idea here is keeping track of whether the project is running to plan.

You need to plan this and then describe it in your funding application. Monitoring and evaluating needs to be planned before your project starts; this application is the ideal place for defining what your monitoring will look like.

Planning your monitoring

To help you plan your monitoring, consider the following:

  • How will you collect the data? Many projects use monitoring forms, interviews and/or surveys. NCVO Charities Evaluation Services (CES) has useful guidance on Information Collection Methods.
  • Who is going to do this? Work is more likely to get done if it is someone’s responsibility.
  • When will the monitoring be done? By collecting data as you go along, you will avoid the headache of trying to collate all of this at the end of the project. You will also collect better data.
  • How will you store the data and analyse it? You may need to consider appropriate IT systems.
  • What are you going to do with the information? You need to be prepared to act on the findings.

You might find it helpful to devise a monitoring and evaluation framework. CES has a useful document - Describe the difference your work makes: Build your framework for evaluation

7

A bonus tip: involving your beneficiaries

To build a project that people need and want, support your beneficiaries to get involved. Examples of when and how you can involve your users in evaluation include:

  • In the design of your evaluation – form an evaluation steering group and invite beneficiaries. They can help you decide on which tools are most appropriate and what makes a good question.
  • In carrying out the evaluation – in some projects, beneficiaries can be trained to carry out the evaluation.
  • In the analysis – involve your clients in understanding your findings and interpreting what the results mean for your project and where changes need to be made.
  • And finally in disseminating your findings:
    • make videos
    • make podcasts
    • support people to speak about how your work has impacted on them – they can act as champions of your project.
8

Budgeting for evaluation

As a rough rule of thumb, we would suggest budgeting 5–10% of any project for evaluation. If you are a very small group, this may not be possible so it is important to be realistic in terms of what you can achieve.

In the planning phase regarding staff time, you will need to budget for time and resources needed for:

  • planning and managing the evaluation
  • involving beneficiaries
  • carrying out the evaluation
  • writing up the evaluation
  • communicating the findings. 

Further information

To help you in your evaluation planning you could:

  • Test out how you fare in terms of your evaluation and impact measurement using Inspiring Impact’s diagnostic tool, Measuring Up! This is a self-assessment toolkit that allows you to review and improve your organisation’s impact practice – that is, the way you plan, evidence, communicate and learn from the difference that your work makes. Note that a new version of Measuring Up! will be out in June 2016, designed for smaller groups. 
  • Become an impact champion and help promote good evaluation and impact practice.

The following resources might be useful to you:

  • Monitoring and evaluation on a shoestring - this is a practical guide that will help organisations to develop their monitoring and evaluation approach and improve their effectiveness on a limited budget.
  • Inspiring Impact Hub is a one-stop shop for impact resources and tools. It pulls together the widest possible range of resources relevant to improving impact practice, and enables users to search and filter results according to their needs.

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Page last edited Jul 25, 2017 History

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