How to Write an Effective Grant Evaluation Plan
Whether you are new to grant writing or have been writing grants for many years, you have definitely heard about evaluation. An effective grant evaluation plan is an important part of any grant proposal, even if the funder does not require a formal plan for evaluation.
In this post, we will help you learn what a grant evaluation is, how to write an effective evaluation plan, and provide some examples for reference.
Let’s dig in.
What is a Grant Evaluation Plan?
A grant evaluation plan is a step-by-step plan that demonstrates how you will evaluate the success of a grant-funded project. An effective grant evaluation plan will lay out the goals and objectives of the project along with the steps that will be taken to track project results.
While the main reason why you write a grant evaluation plan may be because the funder requires it, a grant evaluation plan can also benefit your nonprofit in other ways. An effective grant evaluation plan will help you determine what worked and what didn’t and help you improve your project and your future work.
There are two main types of evaluation that you can conduct: formative and summative.
Formative evaluation investigates how well the project itself is working and would take place while the project is in progress. Summative evaluation investigates whether or not proposed objectives were met and would take place after the project is complete.
Depending on your project, your nonprofit, and the grantmaker, you may complete both types of evaluation. Make sure you identify which type(s) of evaluation fits your needs before you complete your evaluation plan.
Writing an evaluation plan for a grant also requires taking the time to dive deep into your project to help you understand your intended outputs and outcomes.
Outputs are direct results or products which can usually be tracked numerically (such as the total number of people served). Outcomes, on the other hand, are changes in attitude, behavior, knowledge, skills, etc. which are usually longer-term impacts of the project.
For example, if you designed a project to provide hands-on science programs for school-aged youth, an example of output would be serving 1000 total students. For this same project, an outcome might look like an increase in knowledge of at least one science topic. You could demonstrate reaching this outcome with a pre- and post-survey of science knowledge, making sure the questions align with your intended outcome.
How to Write Your Grant Evaluation Plan
Now that you have a better understanding of what a grant evaluation plan is, we are going to lay out some key steps in writing your evaluation plan.
Outline Your Outputs and Outcomes With a Logic Model
The best way to write an effective grant evaluation plan is to lay out each goal and objective and align these with intended outputs and outcomes. Making sure to create Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-based (SMART) goals and/or objectives will make evaluation easier.
You can check out our partner webinar about project goals to learn more about writing SMART goals and objectives.
One of the most common ways to lay out objectives and outcomes for a grant project is to use a logic model. A logic model is a visual representation of your overall project that aligns outputs and outcomes with inputs to demonstrate each step of the project.
Here is an example of a logic model from St. Louis County Public Health & Human Services.
You can learn more about how to create an effective logic model through our previous blog post here. Once you have a clear picture of the project including inputs, activities, and intended outcomes, you will be able to create an effective evaluation plan.
Determine What Data is Needed
Using a logic model to lay out your project and visualize the outputs and outcomes will help you understand what data you need to collect.
Once you know the types of data that you need to collect, you can determine the best methods for collecting them. Keep in mind that there are two major types of data that you will likely be collecting: quantitative and qualitative.
We have provided some examples of each type of data to help you understand the differences and determine which works best for your specific project and evaluation plan—though many often include both.
- Total program attendance for an afterschool program
- Number of meals served to the homeless
- Number of book bags distributed to school-aged children in need
- Increased knowledge of biology for a science-focused program
- Increased confidence of participants in a career-ready program
The type (quantitative vs. qualitative) of data you wish to collect and the exact information you seek will determine your data collection methods. Examples of data collection methods include attendance tracking, surveys, focus groups, and more.
For example, you could use attendance tracking to gather quantitative data such as the total number of children served by an after-school program.
Alternatively, surveys could be used to determine knowledge or attitude changes and are often conducted using pre and post methods. After your audience has completed a program, you could survey them again to see if they gained new knowledge or if their attitude toward something changed.
For more evaluation ideas, check out our post on nonprofit program evaluation methods.
Choose External vs. Internal Evaluation
Another option to consider is whether you wish to use external or internal evaluation.
Depending on the scale of your project, you may wish to work with an outside evaluator. You may even find that the grantmaker recommends or requires an outside evaluator.
Make sure that you follow grantmaker requirements, but keep in mind the costs of evaluation as well. Some grantmakers will allow a percentage of the grant dollars to be used for evaluation.
Whether you use an external or internal evaluation process, here are a few guiding questions that you may find useful as you evaluate your project or program.
- Have intended outcomes been met?
- What worked and what didn’t within the project (were your methods effective)?
- Did you have an impact on the identified need?
Overall, laying out your project in a visual way such as a logic model will help you understand intended outcomes and lead you to the type of data you will need to collect. You can then use this knowledge to determine the best type of evaluation for your project and easily write an effective grant evaluation plan.
Examples of Successful Grant Evaluation Plans
Now that we have introduced grant evaluation plans and explained how to write them, we are going to provide some successful examples of them.
Here is an example evaluation plan from Rural Health Innovations. We have included this example because it does a good job of clearly laying out the steps of the evaluation plan. It also effectively shows the who, what, and when involved in the evaluation.
This example also includes a clear timeline that indicates who is responsible for each aspect of the evaluation. Laying out these details in the evaluation plan helps ensure that the entire evaluation process runs smoothly and each team member has clearly defined responsibilities.
Creating tables like those used in this example will help those reviewing your evaluation plan clearly understand each step of the process.
You can also check out this evaluation plan example pdf from Governors State University. While this example is for the evaluation of a course and may not relate directly to a grant proposal, it does demonstrate some key evaluation plan features.
The timeline in this evaluation plan clearly shows each step of the process while listing out the activities and the people involved. These types of visuals are a great way to help make your evaluation plan clear for anyone who may be reviewing it or using it.
Both of the examples that we have shared provide a step-by-step breakdown of the evaluation plan. These evaluation plan examples also include visuals to help clearly outline their details such as timelines, budgets, and how data will be tracked.
It is important to provide detail in your grant evaluation plan for both the funder and your evaluation team. The grantmaker will appreciate being able to see exactly how you will determine the effectiveness of your project and your evaluation (internal or external) will benefit from having the exact plan readily available.
Wrapping Up: How to Write an Effective Grant Evaluation Plan
We have walked you through the basics of what a grant evaluation plan is and how to begin creating an effective one. The key steps include understanding your project well and being able to clearly identify your intended outputs and outcomes with a logic model.
Your grant evaluation plan will demonstrate how you plan to track whether you have achieved these intended objectives. We hope the tips and examples we have included will help you create an effective evaluation plan for your next grant proposal.
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