As a funder, we are well-aware of how frustrating it is to measure success. The ever-present question about this very thing oftentimes yields ever-elusive responses. So how can you nail down what it means to succeed? And how can you provide tangible results?
- Know the nature of your project
Grantees are the ones providing on-the-ground support and are the experts in both their fields and programs. At JSF, we value their input as such. When applying for grants, keep this in mind. You are the expert.
Know the nature of your project – the population it will impact and the ideal picture of success. Brainstorm outcomes that reflect the core purpose of the project, and do so with as much clarity and brevity as possible.
- Be realistic
Keep the ideal outcome in mind, then pair it with reality. The nature of the project is just as important as the reality of the project’s environment. Ask questions like:
- How long will it take for the ideal outcome to succeed, if ever?
- Is there a difference in short, intermediate, and long-term goals?
- What is a tangible goal at each programmatic stage?
Let these questions guide how you measure success. Create a timeline in which you envision specific measures of growth, and be as objective as you can in this stage. Funders like to know what to expect and when to expect it. Be honest, realistic, and objective in your application so that everyone can be on the same page throughout the entire process.
- Leave room
Nothing ever goes 100% as planned. While you are determining measures of outcomes, leave room for flexibility. Be honest about potential and predicted setbacks at the
beginning stages of the grant, and build in a “pivot plan” if or when these happen.
But don’t just plan for setbacks, leave some wiggle-room for extra, unexpected positive outcomes. These might not be things you planned to report on, but they’re vital to measuring the success and the impact of your program. As the grant progresses and the project evolves, be aware of the ripple-effect, and keep in mind that success doesn’t always look like what you originally thought it would.