Category Archives: research

TOP 7 RESOLUTIONS FOR RESEARCHING, REPORTING AND EVALUATING (2019)

  1. Use strong language. When you write a report or a grant application don’t be afraid to use strong and powerful words.   Strong words convey confidence, ability and the promise of meaningful outcomes.  The tendency of most people writing reports and grant applications is to use eloquence instead of directness.  But in this situation eloquence is not as convincing.  Here are some examples of strong words: provide, demonstrate, obtain, effect and add.  And these words are stronger if you do not temper them with words that increase their eloquence but do not add to the impact, for instance: Instead of will attempt to, just use will, instead of plan to collect, say will collect.

 

  1. Don’t be too wordy. Too many words can be perceived as propping up a lame idea or program.  Often you are limited in how many words you can include in a grant application or report.  The reason for the limit is to ensure the writer is succinct.  Weak wording almost always results in excess words.  Using too many words in a grant application make you seem hesitant or unsure of the effort/organization for which you seek funding.  Wordiness in a report will cause it to not be read (length and boredom factor) or it will sound like a “sales job” instead of a presentation of information or, even worse, both.   If you use strong words (see Resolution #1) you are much less likely be too wordy.

 

  1. Keep your commitments to the Researcher, Report Writer and Grant Writer. Whether you hire someone or use staff to conduct research, write a report or apply for a grant, you need to do what you promised to do.  Some typical things you might be called on to do are: supply the names and contact information of people to interview, alert key stakeholders that they will be contacted, encourage participation in a survey.  The things you are supposed to do are vital to the project.  If you fail do them or don’t do them in the agreed upon time-frame, you make it much more difficult (maybe even impossible) for your consultant or staff to do their job and meet the deadlines.

 

  1. Do not confuse activities with outcomes. (Carried over from 2018) Activities are things you do, outcomes are things you accomplish.  Speaking to groups, conducting classes, providing materials, counseling families are all activities.  Outcomes are things you can measure such as: helping 20 individuals improve their credit score, assisting 5 families in qualifying for home loans or decreasing the number of obese children between 5 and 7.

 

  1. Divorce your partners if you are not compatible. If your partners do not keep their commitments, do not meet deadlines and time-frames, are not what they represented their organization to be or anything else that hampers you from producing your outcomes, do not stay “married”.  Be sure that you clearly include in your contract or Memorandum-of-Understanding the expectations and the proper statements to facilitate dissolution of the partnership if commitments are not met according to the agreement.

 

  1. Don’t bite off something that will choke you. Be careful that you don’t chase money that has requirements attached to it that will take you away from your goals or primary purpose.  Avoid funding that forces you to do things that will cost you more time and/or money than it’s worth.  Do not try to make your round peg fit into the funder’s square hole.

 

  1. Respond to emails in a timely manner. It is very important that you respond promptly to emails (and phone calls) from your funders and from consultants/staff that are doing research, a report, a grant application or an evaluation.  Not responding promptly leaves them to wonder if you got the email, are ignoring them or do not know the answer/don’t have the information.  Even worse, they may think you do not value the project and that can result in all types of fallout.  It is not just respectful and polite to respond in a timely manner, it is also efficient.  If you don’t respond you will either hold up someone else’s work or put them into a position to guess/assume and move on.

 

If you would like additional information on the topics mentioned in these resolutions visit Janet’s blog at www.janetwchristy.wordpress.com.  More information on Janet and her consulting firm can be found at www.leverageanddevelopment.com.    You can contact Janet at janet@leverageanddevelopment.com.

 

Are you building a silo with no doors?

Have you recently been turned down for funding?

Did you have a potential partner say, “Don’t call us, we’ll call you?

Did you recently get a research report that you felt was incomplete?

The bad news is it may have been your fault because you have built, or appear to be constructing, a silo with no doors.

As a research consultant and an evaluator I get to see behind the curtains and in the closets. It is my job to find out what works and what doesn’t and why. One thing I see way too much of, is people in organizations and agencies being their own worst enemy by withholding information.

The most common withholding that occurs is the lack of sharing with the consultant they have hired to conduct research or do an evaluation. This is not always “on purpose”, but that does not make it any less damaging. Here are some examples:

  • “I’m paying you to do the research” is said to the consultant in lieu of answering questions that will assist the consultant in putting things in perspective and context. The missing information, that may exist in the organization, but was not shared means that the time (for which the organization is paying) is spent discovering/uncovering said information. This results in at least one of the following: higher cost, less time spent on uncovering new information or an incomplete report.
  • “I don’t have time to put that information together” is a common response to a request for data. If the data is requested by a consultant doing an evaluation of your program/organization, then you have just cheated yourself and your organization out of “points” in the evaluation. An Evaluator is not your enemy. An Evaluator is the person that can make you look good to your board, boss, funder, the public, etc. But not taking the time to supply them with the requested information diminishes their ability to present the best picture. If the request is made by a research consultant refer back to the first bullet.
  • “I’m afraid someone will steal our ideas and get the funding we need” can be the attitude of directors, boards, staff or anyone at any level. That attitude can be a healthy protection of an organization, position or program, but all too often, it is an unfounded fear. Being governed by fear can result in a missed or terminated partnership. It can also result in thwarted research or poor evaluation. There are ways to test people and organizations before you share everything with them. There are also ways to safeguard your information and ensure the outcomes you need. That’s probably a topic for a separate article, but the short version is: Feed them little bits of information over a reasonable length of time and see what they do with it, then judge. Also, utilize a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that has actual measurements and consequences in it and enforce it. A MOU introduced early in the negotiation will test the potential partner’s integrity and uncover their level of seriousness and commitment. It will also move the negotiation along faster.

As the number of organizations continues to increase and the competition for funding intensifies, partnerships and excellence will become even more critical. So be sure that your silo has doors.

 

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