Giving Compass’ Take:
• Hewlett Foundation’s David Sasaki and FeedbackLabs CEO Dennis Whittle discuss how to approach grant reports that are often filled with jargon, useless information, and dull prose.
• Maybe a reward system would work for grantees that deliver more comprehensible and dynamic reports? That’s one suggestion Whittle proposes. In general, ditching buzzwords is always a good idea.
• If you need some tips on which jargon to lose — and which awesome words to substitute instead — click here.
Why is grant reporting such a broken, painful process for all parties involved? And can we do anything to make it less so?
Essentially, aid, philanthropy, and government systems “assume” that all projects should be successful. Success is the baseline; if the evaluation says the project worked well, the people working on the project don’t get rewarded with more resources or recognition. However, if the evaluation says the project failed, then the system often penalizes or punishes those in charge. The result is a huge disincentive to candor, and hence to learning. It’s too risky for the grantees and implementers! This is compounded by attribution problems, the absence of systematic perceptual feedback from the people we seek to serve (the ‘customers’ or ‘clients’), and the dearth of relevant quantitative data …
I wonder if progress will require us to re-focus the reporting process on Learning (instead of knowing in advance) and Relationships (instead of transactions). Those would both require and maybe even generate a focus on Trust (instead of verification).
What if funders gave “bonuses” for reports that are clear: “Dear ____, Thanks for the report. It vividly summarizes what’s happened over the past year and brings alive all the conversations we’ve had with you as we explore together how to bring about [X] change in the world. Most important, it provides a good foundation of insight, evidence, and judgment for the refined strategy you plan for the coming year. With your permission, we would like to disseminate this internally to our staff, some of our foundation colleagues, and to relevant grantees. And in recognition of your commitment to learning but to candor (so others might learn from your experience), please find enclosed a check for $50,000 of general operating support. We have no doubt you will put this to good use. Look forward to our next in-person conversation. Yours Truly, Program Officer.”
Read the full discussion about fixing grant reports with David Sasaki, Program Officer at Hewlett Foundation, and Dennis Whittle, the CEO and co-founder of FeedbackLabs, at medium.com.
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