Go on, prove it
Put yourself in the funder's shoes. They have a responsibility to spend their money (whether it's public money or private wealth) as effectively as possible. They have to demonstrate that they are achieving their aims and objectives. They probably see hundreds and hundreds of applications. They know that grant-seekers put the best possible interpretation on the facts. They know that some may even lie.
Help and guidance
Will they trust your application? Is it convincing? Try and imagine yourself looking at your own application through the tired and critical, if not cynical, eyes of a funder.
It's hard to generalise about what exactly might cause a funder to raise their eyebrows and say, "Really?" but look at your application and question whether you have (if appropriate):
- shown that you are complementing rather than duplicating, existing provision
- shown that what you want to do is a legitimate activity for your group
- shown that you have the skills and experience to do what you want to do
- shown that you have a real commitment to equal opportunities
- shown that you can manage the money
- shown that your organisation is well-run and has an active Committee or Board able to govern effectively
In many ways funders are likely to be less cynical about applications for money for capital items or to deliver a service (run a youth club or provide a day centre, for instance) than they are about initiatives aimed at changing practice or policy. This is partly because it's very hard to change other people's practice and policy and partly because it's difficult to measure how successful such attempts have been. With these kinds of applications it is more important than ever to be able to answer the question, "How will you know you have made a difference?"
Monitoring and evaluation
There is a difference between monitoring and evaluation; funders often want to see evidence that you will do both, even if they don't say so explicitly. You need to convince them that you care about the way the money is spent and whether or not you are achieving what you have set out to do. If you just seem to want the money, but don't seem to be bothered whether it makes a difference to others in the long run or not, why on earth should you be given a grant?
You can monitor all sorts of things - whether you are spending the money as you planned, how many people attend something, how many phone calls you get, whether people you have trained get jobs. Be careful not to go overboard and count absolutely everything just because it can be counted. Ask yourselves what you want to find out and then decide what to measure. Don't leave it until after you get the grant; in your application be explicit about what you are trying to achieve and the ways you will measure progress. With a big project, it can be useful to set yourselves milestones and monitor to see that you have reached them.
Monitoring is about measuring. Evaluation involves making a judgement. Was what you did useful after all? Did it have the desired effect? How successful were different bits of the work? What could have been done better? Who didn't use the service? What would you do differently if you were starting again? The questions you will ask yourselves will vary according to circumstances but the attitude - that your organisation needs to be critical of its work and learn from its own activities - is one that every organisation should demonstrate.
How you do this again depends on circumstances. You may evaluate the work yourselves, either formally or informally, or you may get someone in from outside to do an evaluation. Building the cost of evaluation into a project is quite legitimate.
There is a tendency to construct evaluation and monitoring systems to get the answers you want - those that show the project in a good light and keep funders happy. This may well be necessary but it's worth trying to ensure that the information you collect also helps you look at your work critically.
Funders may have their own monitoring and evaluation processes. If you do get a grant, check out what's required early on.
This information is reproduced with the kind permission of FunderFinder.