Grant Writing: Answering the Question How Will You Measure Your Success?

In What Foundation Reviewers Want to Know, Asked or Not we presented the eight questions grant reviewers want answered. We talked about writing your needs assessment in Grant Writing: Answering the Question What Need Will You Meet? and writing about the program you want funded in Grant Writing: Answering the Question How Will You Meet the Need You Described? Last week we discussed ways to project success, even if you are writing about a new program in Grant Writing: Answering the Question How Do You Know You Will Be Successful in Doing What You say You Can Do? This week we explore the bases you can use compare your organization against and show actual measures of success.

Basing Success on Mission Consistency

One basis of success is how consistently your agency fulfills its mission throughout organizational operations. The goal is to present a strong front of unified resources directed toward one thing: fulfilling mission. The way to show organizational resources are unified is to show consistency of purpose and values throughout the agency.

The easiest way to show consistency throughout an agency is through strict adherence to organizational policies and procedures. Policy is generally set and enforced by the board.  Procedures are generally set and enforced by management. Board policies ensure that the nonprofit’s leadership obtains and allocates community resources towards mission fulfillment. Well-formulated policies promote strict adherence to agency mission, vision and values. Well-formulated procedures ensure consistent adherence of policy, that is, adherence to its mission, vision and values, throughout agency operations.  

This is why funders sometimes directly ask about an applicant’s policies and procedures. They are trying to determine a nonprofit’s consistency in fulfilling its mission throughout the organization. They want to make sure the resources they may contribute will be used for mission fulfillment. They are, after all, doing the same thing you are: matching missions. Just as you look for foundations whose missions match yours, so do foundations look for agencies whose missions match theirs.

At the very least, make sure to mention your nonprofit’s values and vision statement in your grant proposal, probably in the agency description and background section. You may also want to add descriptive phrases that relate to you mission, vision, or values when you describe your program. For example, if your mission is to encourage civic participation, then you might start your objectives section with the phrase, “In order to promote greater civic participation, we will…”  If one of your nonprofit’s values is equality, you might qualify your program methods by saying, “We will ensure people are treated equally by…”

Be consistent even in your budget, other funding, and sustainability sections. For example, if your goal is livable wages for your clients, does your agency provide livable wages to its employees? Or, just how does that Casino Night fundraising event promote your agency’s mission?

Make sure all the elements of your proposal are consistency with your nonprofit’s mission, vision and values.

Basing Success on Meeting the Goals and Objectives of Your Agency’s Strategic Plan

Another easy way to show success is to describe how well your agency is meeting the goals and objectives of its strategic plan. A strategic plan is a road map showing how your nonprofit will fulfill its mission into the future. Having a strategic plan anticipates your nonprofit’s success in fulfilling mission in the years to come. Past success shows your agency can set and reach goals. A brief mention of what goals have been met in the past portray an organization that has historically fulfilled its mission. After all, the best predictor of future success is past results.

Successful implementation of a strategic plan also shows that your nonprofit is chasing mission fulfillment as opposed to financial gain. Nonprofits who chase money rather than mission are open to mission drift. Mission drift occurs when agency resources are used in pursuit of things other than mission. If mission drift occurs, sooner or later your agency will lose community support. Adherence to a strategic plan bolsters your grant request by subtly showing lack of funding is not your need.    

According to the Concord Leadership Group, only about half of nonprofits have a strategic plan. Hopefully, your nonprofit has a strategic plan that is updated annually.

Basing Success on Meeting Standards and Practices in the Field

Still another easy way to show success is to state how your nonprofit meets or exceeds widely accepted standards in your field. Know the standards in your field and show how your agency compares to industry benchmarks. You should mention your agency’s competence in meeting or exceeding industry standards in the background and description section of your proposal. 

Similarly, your proposal should show how your agency implements widely accepted practices in the field. Showing the use of best practices, highlights your agency as cream of the crop, one of the best out there. Mention widely accepted industry and best practices when you write about how your agency will carry out its program activities. 

Basing Success on Your Proposal’s Evaluation Mechanisms

We talked about measuring your goals and objectives last week. Presenting past positive client outcomes before and after intervention and over time can be powerful predictors of success.

To further illustrate organizational success, you may want to also present the progress your program makes in meeting its operational milestones. For example, for clients to exit the program, they need to enter the program. What program recruitment did you describe? How successful are your client recruitment methods? What about program retention? How successful is you program in retaining clients? What are your program participation rates? How many clients successfully exit the program? What percentage of clients who entered the program successfully exited the program? The objective data you have, the more you will be able to substantiate the success of your program interventions.

Presenting Your Evaluation Data

Just as we talked about when presenting your needs data, when you present statistical forecasts in your evaluation statements, do so in both actual numbers and percentages. Make sure the rounding method in your evaluation section is consistent with that of your needs statements. Remember that reviewers will probably be reading hundreds of proposals. You want the impact your program makes to be comparable to other programs in other proposals. Having both the actual numbers as well as the percentages helps the reviewer measure impact from one program to another. 

Basing success on mission fulfillment can be powerful. Make sure organizational adherence to your nonprofit’s mission, vision, and values is consistent throughout all elements of your proposal. Having a strategic plan anticipates future existence. Illustrating success in implementing your strategic plan gives credibility to your organization’s ability to set goals and meet them in the future. You can easily measure success by comparing your agency’s performance to industry benchmarks and widely accepted practices in the field. When you present statistical evaluation information, do it in a format consistent with your needs statements.

Wrapping It Up

  • Be consistent in illustrating your nonprofit’s mission, vision, and values across all elements of your proposal.
  • Use adherence to your organization’s strategic plan to substantiate your agency’s credibility.
  • Compare your nonprofit’s performance to industry benchmarks and widely accepted practices in the field.
  • In addition to client outcomes, show your agency’s success in achieving operational milestones.
  • Make sure you format numbers consistently throughout your proposal.
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