What Is a Grant Program Evaluation?

Before we define the grant evaluation, we need to know what a grant is first. What is it? A grant is usually referred to as a financial award that is provided by a company, a foundation, or the government to an individual, an organization (usually a non-profit one), or another company so that they can perform the objectives that they’ve set for their beneficiaries or simply to incentivize their performance. The programs or objectives that usually benefit from the grant money can include innovative research, improvement of community facilities, and so on. While they are largely similar to loans in the sense that an entity provides funds to another entity, grants are much more advantageous since no repayment to the sponsor is required, essentially making them gifts.

What is a grant program evaluation? This is a document that may take the form of an evaluation plan, which provides information to improve a project during its implementation phase. A grant program evaluation is necessary because the grantee must demonstrate to the grant funder that they have succeeded in reaching the results they have requested, or that they are working to overcome hurdles. Furthermore, a well-designed grant program assessment will guarantee that the grantee receives the particular grant financing for the remaining years of the award, as well as that the grantor and others have faith in the grantee to award additional grants in the future. Having an evaluation also helps the beneficiary organization demonstrate how accountable they are to the public’s trust.

What’s In a Grant Program Evaluation?

As mentioned, a grant program evaluation can take the form of an evaluation plan which provides the opportunity to improve the funded projects when it is being implemented. With that being said, here are the key parts that should be present when making an evaluation plan for a grant program:

Evaluation Purpose. The first important part of the grant program evaluation document is the purpose why the evaluation is being conducted. Start by determining what needs to be learned in the short and long term in order to understand the aim of the grant evaluation. Consider the kind of decisions that must be made and when they must be made. What should be learned from the evaluation, what choices should be taken as a consequence of the evaluation, and when should the decisions be made are all issues that must be addressed. Because resources are likely to be limited, addressing these questions will assist in determining learning priorities.Evaluation Questions. After the purpose of the evaluation, this is the next key element that needs to be included. When grant evaluations answer the correct question at the proper time, they are most valuable in informing crucial choices. The most important issue to address here is the questions that must be answered in order to make educated judgments. It’s worth noting that there might be several questions and that various questions might be suitable at different phases of the grant project’s execution. The series of questions that may be asked is mostly determined by the amount of time and resources that are available.Evaluation Criteria. When conducting any type of evaluation, not just grant evaluation, a good practice that can be done is to develop specific criteria to measure success. What would qualify as success in reaching the beneficiaries, how to decide whether the funds were appropriately spent, and how to know whether the outreach is sufficient are all critical elements to consider when developing grant evaluation criteria. The evaluation’s credibility will also be determined by whether success is stated in a way that connects with the stakeholders, as they may have differing perspectives on the most essential success criteria. Make sure to include stakeholder feedback when developing the evaluation criteria, and come up with a proper set of criteria that reflects a common goal.Timeline. The timeline of evaluation is usually the next key part to be defined after the grant evaluation criteria. The key questions that need to be addressed in this part include the priorities of the evaluation effort, when each part of the grant evaluation need to be started, when each part of the evaluation is expected to be completed, the people who will be responsible for meeting each evaluation deadline, and the person responsible for monitoring the grant evaluation process in case corrections need to be made. In preparing for the planning of the grant program evaluation process, it is important to begin doing so as early as possible to make it easier to start with the evaluation proper. Additionally, if the evaluation process takes a significant amount of time, evaluation tools may be needed to help it move in the right direction as things may get more complex when they move forward.Collecting Data. Take note of whether there are current or standard measures, or if they will need to be personally designed, the sources of data that will be utilized, and whether or not any data is already accessible that can be used when designing this portion of the grant program evaluation. The majority of the time, there is relatively minimal available information applicable to quality reports throughout the grant program review process. This necessitates the collection of original data from a number of sources. Some of the original data will be qualitative, while others will be quantitative in nature.Methods of Collecting Data. This key part of the grant program evaluation is relatively similar to the previous part. The data collecting strategy to utilize to answer the assessment questions is a critical consideration in any evaluation (not only a grant program evaluation). This section of the grant program assessment is rather straightforward, as it merely gives brief explanations of several helpful data gathering strategies for evaluating grant programs. The technique to be employed is determined by the questions being asked, as well as the time, money, and talent already available. It’s also important in this section to think about what will make the grant program assessment findings credible to the audience.Tools for Collecting Data. This section is also related to the previous two as it will be discussing the tools needed for collecting data during a grant program evaluation. Interview protocols, surveys, and focus group moderator guidelines are among the methods available for evaluating grant programs. The tools required and the actions to be completed are determined by the data gathering techniques. When collecting primary data, tools must generally be created, and they must be tailored to the scenario at hand. What tools are needed to collect data, if certain tools currently exist that can be used as-is, whether examples of tools that can be adjusted are easily available, and who will be accountable for collecting the information are the factors that must be addressed in this section.Methods for Analyzing Data. This part of the grant program evaluation talks about the methods for analyzing the data being gathered. Depending on how the data is being collected, different analysis methods may have to be used. Quantitative data, for example, need standard statistical analysis. Most people are unfamiliar with qualitative data analysis, but there are systematic and comprehensive ways to analyze statements from interviews and focus groups. Take note of the techniques that will be used to analyze and interpret the data, the various methodologies to make sure that the analysis is thorough and seen as reliable by the audience, and the people who will be responsible for performing the analysis when this section of the document is being developed.Reporting the Findings. This is the last key part of the grant program evaluation. When this part is being prepared, take note of who will be responsible for presenting the findings, who the audiences of the report will be, who needs to make a decision based on the reports, how can the findings be used to promote the program efforts, the best method of communicating the findings to the audience, and the best way of report presentation that will click with the audience.

How to Develop a Grant Program Evaluation

Having your grant program evaluated is very necessary as it gives your organization an insight as to what works, what doesn’t work, and what needs to be done in order to improve the program supported by the grant. With that being said, here’s how to develop a proper grant program evaluation document:

1. Identify What Needs to be Evaluated

This is the first important step of creating the grant program evaluation document. In this step, understand what parts of the project or program being supported will need to be evaluated. Typically, the operations are evaluated and proven to have accomplished the objectives and produced the desired results. This should already be conveyed in the grant proposal’s project plan. In general, it’s preferable to err on the side of doing more evaluation than less, as long as the process doesn’t get in the way of the program’s implementation. Data is appealing to most grant funders, and data may be valuable to implementing organizations as well.

2. Identify Performance Indicators

After indicating what needs to be evaluated, determine the performance indicators that are going to be used in evaluating the grant program in this step. These are defined as the tools used in measuring the effect of the program, and they are important since they give a clear sense of what has been achieved. There are two types of performance indicators that should be noted when identifying what needs to be used, and they are the process indicators which define the indicators for a process, and the results indicators which show the result that is achieved from implementing the project.

3. Indicate the Risks and Assumptions

After identifying the performance indicators in the previous step, it’s time to think about the risks and assumptions that may be present in the grant project. External conditions that are outside the project’s or organization’s control are specified as risks and assumptions. Organizations must be able to anticipate potential risks that might derail the project. The proper assessment of hazards can persuade a grant donor that the application is well-prepared to deal with any eventuality. Describing mitigation techniques or plans for how the organization will respond to the identified scenarios is also critical.

4. Conduct a Baseline Study

After identifying the different risks and assumptions of the grant project, it’s time to conduct a baseline study or survey in this step. A baseline study is a survey of the current state of the community or beneficiaries using predefined indicators before the project begins, which will be used to gauge how successfully the initiative meets its goals. Completing a baseline study is critical since it will be used to evaluate the whole project, and its quality will influence the quality of the evaluation process’s outcomes.

5. Monitor the Project Regularly

When the baseline study has already been completed, it’s time to proceed to this step. What needs to be done here is to monitor the grant project, and it is important to do so on a regular basis. The monitoring process’s regular time period (monthly or quarterly) should be determined ahead of time, and a plan should be in place to employ the same performance indicators under identical conditions each time the research is reproduced. This allows for a direct comparison of the collected data over time. A review meeting can be used to address any adjustments that need to be made to the project.

6. Perform the Program Evaluation

This serves as the final step. A final evaluation of the grant project aids in determining how far the project has progressed. While monitoring is nearly often carried out by the organization’s own employees, it is occasionally necessary to have the evaluation carried out by outsiders (such as consultants) since objectivity is critical. Evaluations are used to determine if a project was beneficial, met its objectives, and was implemented effectively.


What is the typical lifespan of a grant?

The grant application process follows a linear lifespan, which involves identifying a funding opportunity, submitting an application, receiving award decisions, and effectively executing the award. The pre-award phase (application evaluation), the award phase (award decisions and notifications), and the post-award phase (follow-up activities) are the three specific key phases of the lifecycle of a grant.

What is qualitative data collection?

Qualitative data collection typically includes research and in-depth analysis. Qualitative data collecting methods are primarily concerned with acquiring insights, reasoning, and motives, and as a result, they are more in-depth in terms of study. Researchers favor procedures or data-gathering instruments that are organized to a limited extent since qualitative data cannot be quantified. One-on-one interviews, focus groups, record keeping, and case studies are common qualitative data collecting methods.

What is a general purpose grant?

A general-purpose grant is a type of grant that can be utilized in any way the funding organization wishes. If the beneficiary organization happens to be awarded this sort of grant, the cash can then be used for running various expenditures, programs, projects, planning, or any other need the beneficiary organization may have.

As stated earlier, getting your grant program evaluated is very important since it lets the funders know whether the project that they funded worked properly or not and whether the funds that were given were used properly. It also helps the evaluators assess the quality of the funded programs and their subsequent impact on the beneficiary community. It also makes the grantees more accountable to their community. When you find yourself in great difficulty in creating this document, there are plenty of samples in this article that you can look at for reference.