Often, the weakest link in a grant proposal is evaluation. Until recently, evaluation was usually an afterthought. But increasingly limited funds and a growing concern about accountability have led most grantors to expect a thorough account of how the programs they fund will be implemented and an evaluation of the grant's impact on student achievement. Therefore, it's important that potential grantees outline their evaluation plan — and their plan to follow through with it — clearly. Here are some tips to keep in mind.
- Review the request for proposals carefully. Elements like mandatory reporting formats, assessment instruments, and timelines are requirements, not suggestions, and must be reflected in the evaluation plan.
- Keep it simple. Focus on how you will measure and report on your major objectives. It's easy to fall into the trap of developing a plan so complex it's nearly impossible to manage all the tasks listed.
- Cross-reference major objectives with the plan. You'd be surprised how easy it is to leave out an objective. Even if the omission gets past proposal readers, sooner or later you'll be scrambling to shore up an incomplete plan.
- Include both formative and summative evaluation. Formative evaluation is used throughout the program to identify and correct problems as they occur. Summative evaluation is used at the end of a project to measure overall impact. Ongoing evaluation will strengthen your program and help ensure achievement of major objectives.
- Remember that evaluation costs money. Whether you contract with an outside evaluator or conduct the evaluation in-house, data collection, analysis, and reporting require resources, including staff time. Costs for evaluation typically run 8 to 10 percent of the grant award. Make sure to build these into the proposal budget.
- Include provisions for piloting and modifying assessment tools. Creating good assessments is more challenging than you might think. A trial run will help ensure that the tools are well-written and elicit the information you need.
Susan Brooks-Young is an educational consultant and writer.