Category Archives: Reporting

Outcomes Are Actually Evidence

In working with non-profits and agencies the struggle I see most is in understanding Outcomes and including them in planning and the quest for funding. Somehow Outcomes have become confused with activities. But the actuality is that Outcomes are evidence that activities have caused a change and/or difference. Outcomes, or evidence, are very personal to a program, organization or mission; however, there are some commonalities.

Looking at how evidence is used by others will help with the understanding.

  • Law Enforcement must have evidence before they can arrest someone. And that evidence must prove that the person being arrested did commit the crime.
  • The courts must have evidence before they can find someone guilty. The evidence must be strong enough to remove reasonable doubt.
  • The military must have evidence that a target is justifiable before they attack.
  • A drug company must have evidence that a medication will have a positive impact on a disease before they can distribute it.
  • A healthcare provider must have evidence that a patient will benefit from a treatment before they proceed with a medication, surgery or other procedure.
  • A football official must see indisputable evidence to overturn a ruling on the field.

All of the above know the necessary evidence before they proceed. They see the needed outcome and determine what evidence will prove that the outcome has been realized. And they are often governed by rules or practices of their profession.

So an effective method for non-profits and agencies to know if they are dealing with Outcomes instead of activities is to ask the following questions about the Outcomes they put in their plans and strategies.

  1. Will there be enough evidence of change and positivity for me to be arrested? What is the change? How will I measure it so that the proof is obvious?
  2. Would a court find me guilty of impacting the people, place or thing that I planned to impact? Will I be able to prove it beyond a reasonable doubt and beyond a list of activities?
  3. Will my client be better because of my program or mission? Will I be able to gather the statistical proof that the cure was effective, not just record the number of people that were offered the cure?
  4. Will my funders and board members believe that a change or impact was made? Do I understand the evidence they need to be convinced?

As I often do in articles, blog posts and consultations, I will once again close with the advice to Start with the ending when planning and seeking funding.



Janet Christy, Owner of Leverage & Development, LLC, offers this list of resolutions to help organizations, agencies and businesses be more effective in conducting research, developing reports and evaluating their operations and programs.


  1. If you find the answer, it is worth the journey. Research is time consuming if done by you or your staff.  Research costs money if you hire someone else to do it.  However, if you find the needed answer or solution it is well worth the cost of time or dollars.  If you weigh the problems caused by not having the proper information, example, rules, requirements, obstacles, input, statistics, etc., the journey (cost and time) doesn’t look too bad.


  1. If you pay for research or a report, read it. When you hand over your valuable and limited dollars to someone for them to perform research, prepare a report or conduct an evaluation, it is a waste to not use it.  Even if you did it only because it was a requirement from your funder, board or boss, it can still provide useful information.  That information can help you improve the performance and effectiveness of your programs and efforts.  It can also provide you useful insight into any aspect of your operation – clients, programs, staff, processes and impediments.  If the report or evaluation provides a plan, then to put it on the shelf after you have spent your money or the time of your staff on developing it is not only wasteful, it is foolish.  At the very least, read what you paid for and then make a conscious decision to use it or not.


  1. Exceed Reporting Expectations. Not many people like preparing reports (I’m one of the weirdos that does like it). Because people do not like doing it, they often spend as little time and effort as possible on it.  This is a huge mistake, especially for getting sustained or future funding.  Here are some reporting mistakes that can ruin your reputation with a funder, board or boss:  1) Not providing what they ask for, 2) Not using the format they specify, 3) Submitting late, 4) Not exceeding their expectations.  The problem caused by #4 is that you doing the minimal will look mediocre compared to someone who goes beyond the requirements.  Looking mediocre compared to the competition is the kiss of death to funding in the currently highly competitive landscape.


  1. Use facts instead of or in addition to stories/anecdotes.  It does take time to do the things necessary to quantify your outcomes, but quantification is proof of your effectiveness.  Quantification requires research (for statistics), tracking (of your results, not your activities) and measuring (improvements and successes).  Remember that doing the things necessary to quantify is a process, not something you do 2 days before you have to prepare a report for your funder, board, donors or boss.


  1. Do not hide from the truth. Evaluation is seen by many organizations and agencies as a judgement.  It can be, but its actual purposes are to help you identify problems (so you can solve them, not so you get punished), determine your successes (so you can publicize and capitalize on them), modify (so you can be even more successful) and prove your value (so you can keep getting funding).  Evaluations uncover important things; they do not invent or cause them.  If you stick your head in the sand, you will likely choke.


  1. Do not confuse activities with outcomes. Activities are things you do, outcomes are things you accomplish.  Holding 10 classes on financial literacy is an activity.  Helping 10 families reduce their debt by 50% in one year is an outcome.  Funders and boards want to hear about outcomes, not activities.  If your reports are full of activities instead of outcomes or your evaluators can only find tallies of activities instead of measurement of outcomes, your success and effectiveness is not proved.


  1. Fulfill your dreams, not your nightmares. If you get funding or establish partnerships that are not in harmony with your purpose and programs, you will set yourself up for nightmares instead of realizing your dream.  Be sure that you do not seek or accept funding that does any of the following: 1) takes time and money away from your core mission/purpose, 2) costs you more than it provides you (knowing this will require a realistic attitude and tracking), 3) involves requirements and “hoops” that cause more frustration than benefit.


Role of Cultural Pageantry and Tradition in Improving People’s Lives

On a recent vacation that included visits to several sports museums I gained a new appreciation for the human need for pageantry and tradition and the purposes they fulfill.

My husband and I visited the Indianapolis 500 Museum and heard all about the history and importance of the winner drinking milk and kissing the bricks.  We even kissed the bricks.  (Full disclosure I got my lips really close to the bricks, but they did not actually touch the bricks.)

At the Kentucky Derby Museum we learned about the ceremonial mounting of the horses, the Derby Hats and the garland of roses given to the winner.  At the Louisville Slugger Museum, I was reminded of the many traditions and ceremonial rituals used by teams and individuals.

All these sports pageantry and tradition activities got me to thinking about others such as Christmas Parades, Beauty Pageants, Easter Bonnets & Finery, etc., etc., etc.  We humans do love pageantry and tradition and ceremony.  If you ever doubt it, try changing a tradition.  For instance one Indy 500 winner decided that since he was part owner in an orange juice company he would drink orange juice instead of milk in the winner’s circle.  According to our tour guide the public watching in horror almost rioted.  To this day, people boo when that driver’s name is mentioned at the Indy Speedway and many other places.

One of the reasons the importance of pageantry, traditions and ceremonies was in my mind so strongly was because of the work I am doing and have done recently with organizations that are trying to help people break unhealthy and confining behaviors and beliefs.   I see programs, grants, events and books addressing things that keep people from being healthy and improving their life.  And as I do evaluations and help people do reporting, I see that the changes, if they come at all, are slow and agonizing.

Could it be that people hold on to traditions and find comfort in pageantry because the continued acceptance and honoring of them provides its own sense of security.  Anyone who has ever attempted to help people understands that change is scary.  The tightness with which people hold on to pageantry and traditions not only illustrates that change is scary, it actually emphasizes the fear.

When I look back at all the programs and efforts I have helped develop, assess, evaluate and report on, I see that the most successful ones embraced the culture of the group that was the target of the help.  The successes and improvements came faster, more often and were sustained when the helping entity showed those being helped how they could improve, but not totally abandon their cultures and the accompanying pageantry and traditions.

When you think about, pageantry and traditions evolve on their own as people and cultures evolve.  The Indy 500 milk drinking tradition again provides an example.  The original milk drinking winner actually drank buttermilk.  It seems that he had grown up drinking buttermilk to refresh himself after working hard in the fields.  So, after he was pretty worn out from driving 500 miles at 100+ miles per hour, he wanted a cold glass of buttermilk.  Today, Indy 500 winners still drink milk, but it has evolved away from buttermilk, since not everyone likes the sour taste.  So any milk is now acceptable, but orange juice is not – evolution accepted, revolution rejected.

So, this causes me to conclude that successful programs and efforts will always need to:

  • Recognize the culture and its pageantry and traditions of the people they are trying to help.
  • Facilitate the ability of the people they are trying to help to honor and observe the security of their culture’s pageantry and traditions.
  • Build in space and time for digression caused by fear of change.
  • Allow the evolution of the pageantry and traditions, instead of ignoring or crushing them.



Tracking Made Easier (or at least less frustrating)

Very often when it is time for me to do an evaluation or assessment of an organization, department or program the proper data is not available.  It is not that it has been lost or that it is confidential.  Nope, it is that it has not been tracked.

Granted tracking is tedious and it does not contribute to the delivery of services.  However, it does help determine success and it definitely affects funding.

Not tracking results in cost — more paid to a consultant, time lost trying to gather at the last minute, frustration and, the worst, lost funding.

Following are some tips that will help you make tracking less tedious, time consuming and frustrating.  These tips will also help you track in a manner that facilitates turning activities into outcomes in your reports.

First of all you must keep your promises.  You must track what you said you would.  You should always strive to meet the expectations of your Funders, Manager, Board or Partners.

You should track as you go.  Recording data regularly means doing it in the manner that will enable you to know at any point that you are on the right track and meet any reporting commitments.  Regularly could be daily, weekly, after each event/session or whatever “as you go” works best for your organization.

Never use the “catch up” method.  Translation: recreating at the end of the month or when the report is written.  This causes all kinds of problems.

  • Inaccurate Reporting – accuracy is assumed by Funders and Managers.  It is your responsibility to be accurate.
  • Cheat your organization or department by not providing all of your accomplishments and not presenting it in the best light
  • Takes more time than recording as you go.
  • Means something else suffers while you dedicate someone’s time to preparing a report that would have virtually written itself if tracking had been done along the way.

Do not rely on an unorganized method such as sticky notes or notations on your calendar.

Honor the specifications of the person or entity that will receive the report (Funder, Manager, Board, Partner, etc.)

  • If they require a specific database — use it, and don’t whine.
  • Meet the recipient’s timelines – don’t ask for leeway or make excuses.
  • Realize that you not meeting specifications may cause your Funder or Department to lose their funding, community support, management favor, or something else vital to survival — don’t bite the hand that feeds you.
  • If your Funder or Manager does not have specifications for reporting, get approval for the method you want to use.  Not knowing the desired form and contents does not excuse you for not providing what they want.  Remember that ignorance is not an excuse. Do you get a ticket for running a stop sign even if you say you didn’t see the stop sign?

If you do not feel comfortable or confident about tracking, get help in developing a process and timelines.  Help can come from a consultant/evaluator, other organizations/departments, higher education and even the report recipient.



Evaluators Can Be Tools and Weapons

Evaluators are not usually the favorite person of the staffs of organizations – non-profits, government agencies and grant recipients.  They usually have some automatic negatives:  they are often required by funders, they are judgmental by job description, they are nosey and intrusive, and, worst of all, they give you a grade.

But Evaluators are not all bad.  They can actually be very helpful tools and weapons.  Their efforts and reports can be used to your advantage.  Here are a few possibilities:

  • Severance  –  If there is a partnership that is not working, but dissolving it would be a public relations fiasco, an Evaluator can help you.  They can:
  1. Assess the problems
  2. Determine if the relationship is salvageable, if so suggest modifications to improve it
  3. Justify dissolving the partnership if that is the best path (be the bad guy)
  4. Validate enforcement of the agreement and responsibilities
  • Avoidance of mistakes  –  By assessing potential partners and their programs an Evaluator can help you choose the right partners.  An Evaluator can ask the nosey, intrusive questions because that’s what they do.  Understanding the potential and challenges of a partnership is critical to the success of a “marriage”.
  • Be your champion  –  When you need to convince a person or group (board, funder, etc.) to allow you to do something (add or alter a program, change a policy or procedure, or adopt a new strategy) an Evaluator can gather the data and input.  They can help you build the case.
  •  Find the good  –  One of the best but most unused things an Evaluator can do is help you identify assets and clarify messages.  This help can provide just the information you need to increase the effectiveness of you publicity.  An Evaluator provides an outside view.  They also specialize in collecting and analyzing information.  Combined these two things can take your publicity and branding to a whole new level.  Talk about reputation enhancement!
  • Keep your funding  –  Often funders, especially the federal government, require that any program or organization they fund must have an outside evaluation.  So, in that case an Evaluator is necessary to get and keep your funding.  But even if an evaluation is not required, it can still help you keep your funding.  An Evaluator can do the research and analysis that you and your staff may not have the time or expertise to do.  That research and analysis will provide much of the data you need to do the required reporting to funders, boards and donors.  The Evaluator can even do the report for you.  Because you have and Evaluator involved the report has an extra stamp of credibility, which never hurts when it comes to funding.
  • Save you money  –  Yes hiring an Evaluator costs money, but they can also save you money by:
  1. Getting or retaining funding
  2. Giving you back the time you would spend to do research, analysis and report preparation
  3. Helping you avoid the cost and wasted time of bad partnerships
  4. Showing you where changes in policy or procedure could reduce costs


So, the next time you don’t think you want or need an Evaluator, think again.  They might just be one of your best investments.


What’s The Difference in Activities and Outcomes?

In past blogs I have droned on and on about Funder’s wanting to see Outcomes and how important Outcomes are.  But I know from experience and conversations with government agencies and non-profit organizations that many people struggle to understand the difference in Outcomes and Activities.  So, here are a few clues to knowing the difference so that you can identify and use Outcomes when seeking or justifying funding and doing reporting.


Your Outcome may be someone else’s Activity.  The Outcomes you need to produce depend on where your organization/program fits into the continuum of the big picture.  When you rely on funding from outside your organization or agency, you fall somewhere in the continuum of the mission/program of the funding provider.  This also applies if you are a department within an agency or government entity.  Think of it as an assembly line.  Your station on the line is somewhere in the middle.  Here is an illustration:  Your station’s purpose is to take a raw material (such as corn), modify it (cut the corn off the cob), then pass it on to another station to conduct another function (cook it).  The end product will be creamed corn in a can.  The work of your station on the line is vital to the end result.  To the big picture your station conducts an Activity; for your station, you have produced an Outcome.

Don’t assume your Activities are what matters.  On the assembly line where your station produces corn cut from the cob, you will likely be expected to produce a specific amount of cut corn.  In the big picture your station is not measured by the number of cobs you process, how fast you cut the corn or how quickly you process each cob.  Also, in the big picture it does not matter how long it takes for your machine to warm up or how many times you have to stop the machine and clear out a blockage.   Your station is measured on how much cut corn gets to the next step on the assembly line.  Stated differently: you are measured on the amount your station contributes to the end product.

With this assembly line (continuum) picture in mind, here are some points to help you differentiate between Activities and Outcomes for your agency/organization within the desired Outcome of the Funder.  Following are some typical Activities that people often mistake for Outcomes:

Actions you tally – Information sessions, classes, mentoring sessions, speeches, counseling sessions, forms completed

Inputs your provide – Staff, volunteers, money, place, trainers, tests, counselors, food

Outputs you count – Participants, attendees, graduates, program completers, certifications, qualifications, parents counseled

Resources you obtain – Materials for students, Childcare for career training attendees, mobile classroom, counseling services


Outcomes are what you produce depending on where you fall in the continuum – In reporting and in seeking funding, you must explain how your product helps accomplish the outcome(s) of the funder or partnership.  Here are some examples:

  • Middle Schoolers ready to enter high school – demonstrate how you know they are ready to enter high school and move on toward graduating and obtaining a job with family sustaining wages
  • Nutritional meals for Seniors that help increase their overall health
  • Program participants that are ready to fill and sustain positions in health care, manufacturing, logistics, etc. that provide family sustaining wages
  • Healthier families because you provided  food on weekends to elementary school children, health screenings for seniors, free medical clinic
  • Decreased children in poverty because you have facilitated the outcome of more people employed with family sustaining wages


I have attempted to provide you some explanation and examples so that you can be better prepared to determine your own Outcomes and differentiate them from Activities.  However, Outcomes are very personal to an organization/agency and where it fits into the big picture.  One of the best pieces of advice I can provide is to get outside input.  People within an organization or agency are so busy doing the work that it is difficult for them to step back far enough to see the other parts of the continuum.  Outside scrutiny can help with this.  Outside help can come from many sources, here are a few:  Funder (donor, grantor, government agency, etc.), education (university institute, interns, students in an appropriate, professors, etc.), consultant, board, volunteer, other organizations/agencies and even the funding provider.


Taking The Pain Out Of Doing Reports

Preparing reports is not the favorite activity of nonprofits and other organizations.  As a matter of fact it is often the least favorite part.  Leaders and program staffs of organizations want to spend their time delivering their services – helping people.  The accounting staff wants to do accounting.  Fund raisers want to raise funds.   Grants staff wants to spend their time on identifying and writing grants.  But reports must be written or the funding dries up.

There are some things that can be done to greatly reduce the pain and frustration of preparing reports.


Before the Report

Before you begin preparing the report there are some actions that will not only make the report preparation easier, they will also improve the quality of your reports.  You may be reluctant to spend time on some of these suggestions, but it is really a matter of “pay me now, or pay me more later”.  The time you spend on these groundwork things will save you time and agony when you actually prepare the report.

  • First be certain that you understand the reporting requirements of the one who will receive the report. Recipients can be funders, partners, board members, donors and, sometimes, licensing/certification entities.  Your understand should include:

>  Process

>  Form

>  Timelines

>  Methods

>  Don’t assume anything.  If the requirements and guidelines are not clear — ASK

  • Be very careful that you do not use familiarity as an opportunity to scrimp on the details. When a funder has been giving you money for a long time or a donor has been supporting your efforts for years, you may feel that they are a sure bet.  They know the wonderful things you do and there is no reason that they will stop helping you.  But what if something changes – guidelines, contact person, number of competitors for their money?  Any report you provide should be done as if the recipient knows nothing about you.  Because you never know when that might suddenly be the case.
  • Make a timeline for all facets of the reporting process.

>  Set dates for everything – collection, tallying, analyzing, writing, proofing, etc.

>  Put actions on your calendar and the one for the organization.  Be sure everyone knows the dates.  This makes it a commitment and it needs to be a commitment to actually happen

  • Have someone from outside your organization look at your plan, including outcomes and measurements, to be certain everything is clear and rational. You can trade with another organization (they read yours, you read theirs).  You can hire an outside consultant or maybe use faculty or students at a college or university.
  • Develop a tracking plan that gathers the data as you go. No “catching up” (translation: recreating at the end of the month or when the report is written.)  This practice causes inaccuracies, stress and likely makes something else suffer.  Include dates, remember there is not a commitment unless there are dates associated with an action.  To be sure you are on target to meet your commitments and produce the expected outcomes.  There is nothing more frustrating than getting to the date you are supposed to write the report and find that you are missing things.   It’s better to spend a few minutes at pre-determined intervals to be sure you are on target than to get into a OMG situation where you are running around like a crazy person trying to find and recreate the information for the report.


Preparing the Report

When it is time to prepare the report it is crucial that you set aside the proper amount of time to do the work.  Report preparation does not turn out well when it is one task of a multi-tasking session.  Interruptions will actually cause you to spend more time on the report preparation.  Be very careful that you do not use other tasks and people to avoid doing the report.  Here are some tips that will help you do quality reporting and lessen frustration.

  • Do it in the manner required and/or agreed upon. Changing the manner could result in you not having the information needed because you gathered data for the original manner.  It could also mean the report will not meet the requirements of the report recipient.
  • Be on time. If you have done the proper work before the report and you set aside time to do it, this should not be a problem.
  • Do quality reporting.
  • Don’t make excuses. Even if funders are tolerant of excuses, you do yourself no favors for future funding.
  • Have someone outside your organization look at reports to ensure they are clear, concise and impressive. You can use the same organization or person you had review your plan for reporting.
  • Recognize when you need professional help and get it. Your specialty is not preparing reports; the quality and benefits may be higher from getting professional help.  Also, it may be less costly to outsource some or all of the report preparation so that you and your staff have time to do the business of your organization.  Some options for outsourcing:  Consultant, Higher Education, Intern, Board Member or even another organization.


Fallout from Inadequate Reporting

There are definitive consequences from reporting that is inadequate or late.  The most serious fallout is loss of funding either immediate or future.  If your funding is reimbursement based, you could not only lose funding, you would also have spent money that you will never recover.  Poor reporting is likely to ruin your chances for future funding from the report recipient and from potential funders, because funders talk.  Inadequate reporting will likely result in the need to supplement the original report; this takes more time than doing it properly the first time.  Supplemental reporting, loss of funding and worrying that the report might not be adequate cause stress.  Something you probably have more than enough of.


Benefits of Good and Exceptional Reporting

On the flip side of the consequences of inadequate reporting, there are many benefits of good reporting, even more from exceptional reporting.

  • Meeting the requirements and being on-time shows that you are cooperative and compliant and have respect for the needs and specifications of funders and other report recipients.
  • Using appropriate statistics and examples shows how well you are delivering on your commitments and proves that you are producing the promised outcomes.
  • An exceptional report gives you an opportunity to brag, which in this case is not only satisfying; it also proves your value. If you see reporting as an opportunity to brag instead of an annoyance, your reports will be less aggravating to do and present a positive impression.
  • A report that delivers also provides a foundation on which you can build future proposals, requests and other things. In my experience as a consultant helping organizations with reports I have seen many uses for parts of the report, including:

>  Other grants

>  Funding justifications

>  Development of programs

>  Projections

>  Planning – strategic and tactical

>  Feasibility testing

>  Press releases

>  Annual report

  • A complete report provides an assessment of progress and identification of obstacles to help your staff and board understand the situation and positions you to make adjustments.
  • An exceptional report helps you build consensus and market your organization.

>  It helps you maintain belief and support among your followers

>  It aids you in development of advocates – partners, donors, fans

> It assists you in promoting your organization and programs to potential                   partners, funders and participants

  • A well-done report provides you and your staff with a sense of accomplishment. Seeing in print (or on a monitor) your progress and successes makes them more real and just plain feels good.

What Do Funders Say About The Organizations Who Want Their Money?

As a Non-Profit or Agency do you ever wonder what Funders say behind your back?  Well, you should.  As a consultant and evaluator I have had a lot of opportunities to hear from Funders.  Following are some of the principal comments and complaints they have about the organizations who are seeking money from them.

  • Applicants and Recipients track input and output instead of measuring outcomes.  Input and Output = activities, number of people touched, number of training completers, etc.  Outcome = Product, Systemic Change, improvement, enhancement
  • Organizations are focused on activities, not outcomes and do not usually show what change they plan to bring about or have accomplished.
  • Organizations very often want funding for something (staff, operation, equipment, etc.) and try to disguise their need inside a lame attempt to show they are seeking funding for a project or program that aligns with the Funders’ goals. But Funders have seen this before and they can smell desperation.
  • Funding requests often do not provide adequate proof that the fund seeker can deliver the proposed or expected outcome. The fund seekers often do not use evidence based elements such as:
    • Needs – lacks data
    • Situations – lacks examples and trends
    • Programs – does not appropriately correlate a program to a solution/outcome
    • Training – typically use homegrown instead of evidenced based
    • Improvements – lacks data
    • Differences – lacks measurement and/or proof of the improvement                You cannot say “We’ve got this, we are professionals
  • Reporting often does not prove that the organization is producing the promised outcome; they may be doing it, but are not showing evidence in reports.
  • Organizations usually only think of a Funder as a money source. This often means organizations hamper the ability of a Funder to help with things other than money.  They provide sugar coated reports to make them look good to the Funder.  However, if they shared information on obstacles with a Funder they  look more realistic and they also provide openings for Funders to help with:
    • Identifying and establishing partnerships
    • Identifying and obtaining resources
    • Finding a way around regulations
    • Removing roadblocks
    • Getting an audience

          Remember Funders have money and connections – people listen and respond              to them


A larger and disappointing reality

Sometimes an organization still gets funding because it is known to the Funder, but this can cause its own set of problems:

  • Complicates reporting – how do you report on things that are not definitive?
    • Vaguely
    • No or little proof
    • With anecdotes and testimonials which is not true substantiation
  • Jeopardizes future funding from the funders that know you because reports are lacking in statistics and other data; there is little justification for continued funding
  • Limits you to getting funding only from Funders who know your organization. Limiting the number of Funders results in limited funding.  Regional and national Funders are not likely to consider your requests.  Even new local Funders will be a hard sell since you do not have a foundation of proof to show them.

Funders Want Outcomes Not Output

Funders, foundations, government agencies and even donors, want the organizations they fund to demonstrate outcomes, not report activities and outputs.  They want to fund results oriented programs, not read touching stories.

Funders want to see:

  • Strategy more than tactics – Improve graduation rate through tutoring VS X number of participants in an after school program
  • Big picture versus tallies of activities – Produce X number of people in jobs that pay $15 or more per hour employed for 1 year or more VS Train X number people in manufacturing skills and Assist X number of people in resume preparation
  • Partnering more than referring – Partner with X number of organizations to provide GED qualified participants for a workforce development program VS Refer clients who cannot read to literacy organizations.  Partner implies interaction – Refer implies you are done.
  • Effectiveness instead of blood, sweat and tears –X number of program participants plan to choose a career in healthcare VS Spoke to 25 student groups on healthcare careers and participated in 3 high school career day events
  • Systemic change versus heart rending anecdotes – Facilitated the adoption of new policy by the Sheriff’s Department that directs officers to contact Solicitor’s office before detaining juveniles VS Story about a School Resource Officer that counseled two eleventh graders and kept them from dropping out
  • Evidence of follow up and follow through – Provided resources that enabled X number of program graduates to stay employed in years two through five VS Contacted X number of program graduates to complete survey about employment status
  • Depth, breadth and commitment of relationships with stakeholders – Coalition of a high school, a community center, parents, Boy Scouts and two churches provide tutoring and support for at-risk sixth graders. Detailed MOUs exist between the organizations; parents and student participants sign commitment letters.  Grades and test scores of student participants are monitored.  The outcome goal of the program is that promotion from sixth to seventh grade will improve each year.  VS A community center that offers an after school program for middle schoolers with volunteer tutors and monitors.  There are no MOUs with other organizations or schools.  Participation by students is voluntary; parents are not required to be involved.  Because there is no formal relationship with the school the community center cannot obtain grades or test scores.


Obviously it takes time to focus on outcomes and develop program, measurements and relationships that will accomplish those outcomes.    But the time is an investment in a proposal and a program that will get funded.


Ignorance Is Not Bliss, Ignorance Is Dangerous

Ignorance for Non-Profits and Agencies seeking funding and striving to maintain funding is nowhere near bliss.  An Officer will tell you as he gives you a speeding ticket even when you claimed you did not see the speed limit sign, “Ignorance is no excuse for breaking the law.”  Ignorance is also no excuse for under-performing when seeking funding or reporting to Funders.

Ignorance about Funders and your own Program or Project is dangerous and usually results in cost:

  • Missed funding
  • Lost funding
  • Reduced Funding
  • Wasted Time
  • Extra Cost

 Because lack of information and understanding can be embarrassing and costly, before you even seek funding you need to know:

  • The goals, mission, priorities and funding history of the funder – potential or existing
  • Where your organization/project fits in the funder’s scheme
  • The requirements and expectations of the funder
  • Outcomes – what do they expect you to produce
  • Measurements – what and how
  • Reporting – statistics, form, software, proof
  • Timeframes – reports due, project completion, phase intervals
  • Leniency – do not assume that because the Funder is altruistic they are equally as understanding of missed deadlines and outcome shortfalls
  • What constitutes non-compliance – non-compliance is not just for government grants, promises not kept are actually non-compliance and can result in discontinued funding and/or no future funding

Without all the ingredients a cake will fall flat or lack taste.  You wouldn’t start to bake a cake without all the ingredients, would you?  Everyone has done it and suffered the consequences of an aborted bake, emergency trip to the store or failed attempt to substitute.

Which comes first, the chicken or the egg?  The funds or the program/project? 

An undeveloped or underdeveloped project/program/organization will not get funding – at least not sustained funding.  It is getting harder and harder to get funding, even initial funding, because of the competition and because funders have been burned.  Even if you are seeking funding to develop a program you still have to completely flesh out the “project to develop the program”.  So fully develop the project/program/mission before you seek funding!


  • Outcomes and measurements – what you will accomplish and how you will know you accomplished it
  • Steps to outcomes
  • Budget – a real one for the life of the project
  • Parts and pieces
  • People
  • Supplies
  • Equipment
  • Partners – with a fully developed role and commitment, not just a “we will participate” letter. Don’t assume you will work out details and roles later.  If not fully developed and committed before starting a program/project the partnership may not materialize at all or not in the necessary form.  It does not enhance your reputation/relationship with a Funder if you have to say that a partnership did not work out.
  • What you bring to the party
  • Experience
  • Research / Data
  • Clients
  • Donors
  • Space
  • Program that can be expanded
  • Measuring and Reporting – how you will gather and present. Don’t forget to calculate the cost of this:
  • Actual costs
  • Software if you have to purchase
  • Additional personnel – maybe specialized
  • Outside evaluator – if required or if you need one to keep you on track.
  • Soft costs
  • Time not spent on other activities
  • Changes to present operation methods – accounting, tracking, use of space, privacy policies
  • Follow Up – typically underestimated, but almost always required to do proper measuring and reporting Funders want outcomes – outcomes require follow up
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