Grantee reports are essential for foundations, helping determine disbursements and grants. Reporting is also a vital part of making grants and a fantastic opportunity for grantees to share advancement with grantmakers. But done inefficiently, it can be a tedious task that contributes little to grantmaker or grantee.
Done right, reporting can be a meaningful exchange of data and stories as well as a tremendous opportunity for growth for both grantees and grant makers.
Reimagining Grant Reporting
Today, progress reports are often reflective summaries written after grant fulfillment, typically including the following:
- Financial statements that show spending, legality, and compliance.
- Lessons learned. Some projects don’t achieve results. Good grantmakers know some trial and error is necessary—and that every program can improve.
- Project activities: Grantees use reporting to explain allocation of funds within the bigger mission of the program. This is also where nonprofits inform funders about collaborations and use of volunteer resources.
- Future plans: Can sustainability be achieved?
- Results and impact: Evidence can include narrative reports.
This type of traditional reporting process exists with good reason. But there are flaws too:
- Traditional reports don’t analyze strategy. Grantee reports are often a condition of grant funding, but funders often ask high-level questions that don’t align with program or initiative strategies. Requesting nonspecific information does little to advance learning or further improvement for those who have to report on it—or those who have to read it.
- Information is often anecdotal. Inspiring stories are not enough. Funders must spend considerable time reviewing and analyzing anecdotes to draw essential insights. What they need is structured data that will be meaningful beyond the reports.
- Grant makers try to minimize grantee burden. Funders must constantly balance their concern about placing additional administrative burden on grantees with their interest in assessing progress. Trying to make things easy for grantees can actually make it harder.
Problems are often compounded because different funders use different reporting methods. The lack of communication makes it even harder to decipher what’s being asked and what the right answer looks like. If reporting is too open-ended, grantees don't even know what to report. As a result, traditional reports often simply go unread.
Grantee Reports as the New Way Forward
Don't let this happen at your foundation. Fluxx’s Grantmaker platform provides an opportunity to use reports to build knowledge and impact; reports can be a launching pad for iteration and improvement. As you reframe the future, you can validate and improve initiatives, and grantees can strengthen their work. Here’s how to transform grantee reports into valuable assets:
Improve clarity and consistency. Help grantees learn and grow. Structure reports so grantees can reflect on goals. Write clear questions but also provide ways for grantees to share progress during the life of the grant. Complement stories with metrics.
Open a communication path. Encourage communication well before report completion. This should be a learning experience on both ends.
Make reporting more interactive in real time. Grantees should be able to track data in real time so foundations can assess the work, provide feedback, and assist with resources, capacity-building, and insights. Grantmaker makes this possible, empowering both parties to react to progress and adjust throughout the life of the grant.
Drive lessons learned further. Foundations have a great deal of experience and wisdom that can improve the reach of many nonprofits.
Open dialogue between foundations and grantees is essential.
Grantee reporting has all the potential to be a valuable and even enjoyable part of the grant process. Click here for our free guide on how grant makers can use Fluxx to build the best report possible and transform existing reports into their most valuable assets.