Editor’s Note: This month’s column is an excerpt from Deborah Ward’s new book, Writing Grant Proposals that Win (3rd Edition, 2006: Jones and Bartlett Publishers, Sudbury, Mass., www.jbpub.com). It is reprinted here with permission from the publisher. For more information about the book, go to http://www.jbpub.com/catalog/07637 29302.
Since the late 1990s, evaluation has become increasingly important to funders. They want to know if their money was well spent, who benefited from the project, and to what extent. Evaluation should, by the same token, be important to grant seekers as a means of showing funders they are capable, reliable, and can be trusted with future grants. Unfortunately, proposal writers too often treat evaluation casually and give funders very little information about their plans.
This can be avoided by asking the evaluator to be a part of a project development process and to provide the information that is needed for this proposal section. (Often, the evaluator must be identified and his or her qualifications must be included in this section.)
Evaluation asks: Did the project meet its objectives, and if so, how do you know? If it did not, what were the reasons why? If you have written clear, measurable objectives, your evaluation design should be apparent. For example, if your objective is to raise test scores of the target group as compared to a control group, the evaluation design section of your proposal should describe the selection procedures for the control group, the testing instruments and procedures, and the process for establishing validity of the test.
Your evaluation design should clearly indicate the criteria for success for the project. These criteria should be specific and ambitious enough to show that the impact of the project is substantial. For example, a criterion for success of the test score project described above could be that the average test score for the target group exceeds that of the control group by 15 out of 100 points.
The proposal also should describe how data will be collected and analyzed, and explain all evaluation instruments, such as tests and questionnaires. It should discuss how the instruments were chosen or developed and why they are appropriate for the project.
You may choose either to evaluate the project at its end to judge its ultimate result (summative evaluation), and/or conduct continuous assessments as the project proceeds to keep an eye on progress and make any necessary adjustments (formative evaluation).
In the following example of a summative evaluation plan, note how the evaluation measures accomplishment of the objectives:
A summative (statistical) evaluation will be conducted for the project objectives relating to reducing drug use. These data will be collected and analyzed annually.
The evaluator will use official police records to ascertain the extent to which incidents involving students who have tried or sold drugs have decreased and whether that reduction is at least 10 percent as compared to the base year.
The evaluator will evaluate student perception of using drugs by conducting a survey that duplicates the survey administered prior to project implementation (see need statement). This survey will be administered to a stratified random sample of students in the target school. The survey will seek to gather data on the extent to which students are opposed to drugs. The evaluator will determine if 50 percent fewer students have never tried drugs at the end of the project compared to the beginning of the project.
In most cases, a summative evaluation will meet the funder’s evaluation requirements. But formative evaluation is a very valuable tool for managing projects, because it requires a great deal of time to interview staff and participants and observe activities. Check the budget guidelines to see if the costs of an outside evaluator are an allowable expense–this will often allow you to include the cost of a formative evaluation.
The information gained through formative evaluation can be very important for multiyear grants. In most cases, summative evaluations are not completed in time to apply for continued funding. Formative evaluation, on the other hand, provides periodic reports you can use to convince a funder to renew your grant.
Because projects usually use formative evaluation to help with implementation, your proposal should describe how the evaluation report will be used. Your project must publish the report in a timely manner, present it to the proper authorities, share it with project staff, and provide a plan to use the information to modify the project.
Discuss the costs of conducting a formative and summative evaluation with your evaluator before submitting your proposal. If it is not too costly, conduct both types of evaluation. This can enhance the credibility of your project and your proposal.
Deborah Ward, CFRE, is an independent grant writing consultant. She welcomes questions at (717) 295-9437 or Debor21727@aol.com.