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How to share your evaluation findings with funders and donors

A prime audience for your evaluation findings is likely to consist of people who have directly – or indirectly – supported your activities. Over the last 10 years, the voluntary sector has seen huge changes in the way it is financially supported. NCVO’s Civil Society Almanac 2017 notes the switch from government grants to government contracts – resulting in big changes in the way charities report and account for their progress.

The biggest giver to the voluntary sector is the general public. Over half of all voluntary sector income comes from individuals – through buying services, regular donations, one-off causes or legacies. Sharing your evaluation findings with the organisations and individuals that fund your work isn’t just about bureaucratic reporting; it is our collective responsibility to account for how we spend other people’s money and to demonstrate that it is has been used well.

Your evaluation can also be a powerful tool for attracting further funding.

1

Check what your funder wants

If you’re reporting to a funder, check their requirements before you get stuck in. Do they want a large, full report on the whole project? Or do they want something short and outcome focused – perhaps even more of a case study? Not every funder wants a written report – many are embracing new formats, mediums and channels.

Check whether your funder has any specific requirements, such as certain outcomes that need to be reported on or any agreed evaluation questions. If you are a funder, Inspiring Impact has a resource on how to promote good impact practice through your grant giving, or read our good practice guidance on monitoring and evaluation for funders.

Language is important: the words impact and outcomes mean different things. But in talking about evaluation, these words are often used synonymously. Read our evaluation definitions for more guidance and be clear what your funder is asking you to report on. 

2

Tell them if you did what you said you would

State it loudly and clearly! This is the story your funder is looking for – and make sure you answer the question. Start by going back to your original funding application and refer back to what you said you would evidence. See this how-to guide for more tips on how to fill in the evaluation questions in funding applications.

Here are some questions to consider:

  • How many beneficiaries were there? What was their profile?
  • What outcomes have you achieved or not achieved?
  • Have there been any unintended positive or negative outcomes?
  • Have you spent the budget according to plans, and if not why not?
  • Did you identify any needs that you couldn’t meet but that need some attention?

If you’re communicating your work to donors, you will need to change your approach. Monthly givers are likely to be committed to your wider purpose and mission – not just a specific project. They still need updating on how you’re spending their money, but may want this told in a different way to a funder. Read our guide on engaging with external audiences for more advice.

3

Use words and numbers

Using a mixture of qualitative and quantitative data will make your findings more interesting – and more accessible – to those reading. Many funders like case studies that help bring your work to life. That said, numbers can be powerful too: the numbers of cancer patients you supported, the percentage reduction in young people with mental health challenges, or the proportion of people who have changed their recycling habits, for example. 

4

Keep the conversation going

If you haven’t done what you said you would – or you haven’t been able to achieve it – make that clear too. Don’t shy away from the difficult aspects of reporting. Rather, explain why this has happened. Has anything changed in your internal or external context that affected your delivery? This isn’t about making excuses: write about what has happened – as you understand it – as honestly as possible. Funders and donors often genuinely welcome learning in evaluation reports.

By keeping in regular contact with your funder, you can ensure there aren’t any unwelcome surprises. If things are not going well, your funder may be able to provide additional support, change your project focus, or offer advice on its development. Funders aren’t just there for money: they have a wealth of experience, knowledge and understanding from the many thousands of projects they have supported. 

5

Demonstrate your learning

Even if everything has gone well, you will still have acquired new learning as part of the delivery. This is invaluable and needs to be shared. If the project has not achieved what you intended, thoroughly investigating why and demonstrating the knowledge from this is essential. By sharing your experience with funders, you’ll also be supporting them in making better funding decisions in the future and ensuring their resources are used most effectively.

If you have a theory of change for your project (or your organisation), this is a good moment to consider whether your assumptions about how outputs would lead to outcomes are correct. Using your evaluation findings to show the links between your activities and changes for individuals or communities makes a strong case to funders that your work is effective.

If the changes didn’t come about, what does the evaluation tell you about what’s going on? Share your ideas with funders and tell them how you’ll act on your evaluation’s recommendations – many funders will want to see that you can learn from, and build upon, the work you do in the future. And don’t forget to incorporate your learning into your future planning and strategy processes – read more in our guide on using findings to improve your work

6

Find future funding

An evaluation report can be a powerful tool for fundraising, helping you to engage with potential future funders and donors, as well as with current ones. Sharing your evaluation findings can improve understanding of the difference your work makes, building a case to attract further funding.

If you’ve developed a theory of change as part of your planning, you may find it a helpful tool for communicating with new funders. You can use it to help them understand:

  • the purpose of what you do
  • how you intend to make a difference
  • how you contribute to the broader picture of social change.

Consider including your theory of change map or narrative in funding applications, or use the key components of your narrative when developing key messages for your fundraising activity. 

7

What next?

Everyone who gives you money wants to know that your project or organisation is sustainable. Now that your funding has ended, what will you do next? Do you have plans for how to sustain the work beyond the life of the funding? This is just as important for individual donors as it is for large funders.

Your evaluation findings might be the springboard to greater action to tackle a problem you are passionate about. It could be that your evaluation has led you to try a different approach based on what you’ve learnt. Whatever you’re doing next, take your supporters along with you.

Further information

This how-to was contributed by NCVO Charities Evaluation Services and produced as part of Inspiring Impact – a UK-wide collaborative programme supporting a focus on impact in the voluntary sector.

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Page last edited Jul 28, 2017 History

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