Funders guidance - Review

Review

In order to get the best return on the time, effort and resources you invest in planning, evidencing and making sense of your impact, you will need to use your findings to help you and your grantees to improve the impact of your investment in future. ‘Review’ looks at how you use your findings to get better at the way you plan, describe and deliver your work, as well as the way in which you embed your learning in order to get better at measuring the difference you make.

Whether or not you prepare a written report, you will need to think carefully about how you communicate your findings to spread your learning to the widest possible audience. This includes thinking about how you present your impact to your governing entity, donors, grantees, the public and partners, as well as feeding back to the people who were involved in the impact measurement process. It also means thinking through how to communicate your findings clearly, honestly and transparently and encouraging your grantees to do the same.

4.1 We feed back our collated findings internally and externally

This criterion looks at the way you share your findings with key people outside of your project or organisation, including other funders/commissioners, partner organisations and the public. It also looks at the way you feed back your findings to the people involved in measuring your impact – including your grantees and staff.

Having gathered and analysed your evidence, you will be ready to tell people about the difference that your funding makes. Whether or not you choose to prepare a formal report, make sure that you include key internal and external audiences in your plan for communicating your impact.

Externally, presenting your findings will keep you accountable to your trustees and any other stakeholders, and help to increase their understanding of how and why your funding makes a difference. Communicating your findings to partner organisations and to the general public will also help to raise your profile and promote the work you have funded.

Internally, it is also important to feed back to the people involved in measuring your impact: your staff, and if possible your grantees. Sharing your findings internally allows people to see the results of funding programmes and the benefits of measuring impact. Presenting evidence of the difference the funding has made can be rewarding and motivating. If you are able to feed back to grantees, this can be a way of thanking people for their contribution to your impact measurement process, and a way of demonstrating that the information they shared has been carefully considered and put to good use

This criterion is fully met if:

You share your findings with key internal and external stakeholders and with people involved in gathering evidence of your impact.

What next?

If you’ve met this criterion in full, you can improve your practice by:

  • Including evidence of your impact in all your key marketing and publicity documents

You can communicate the impact of your work to a wider audience by encouraging grantees to disseminate their findings and by communicating your overall impact and specific examples of the difference you make in your own promotional materials.

  • Sharing findings with local and national networks

Encouraging your grantees to share findings on impact with local and national networks, and disseminating your broader impact measurement will allow you to reach an even wider audience, and to share learning across the sector.

4.2 We provide information about how our evidence was collected when we report our findings and we ask our grantees to do the same

Including details of how data was gathered – the methodology – is an important part of communicating findings in a way that is clear, transparent, and allows the audience to make judgements about the strength of your conclusions.

This involves talking about:

  • The tools used to collect data, and how and when they were applied
  • How it was decided which groups should be included in the sample
  • The number and type of groups that you collected data from
  • How you asked people to participate

It is not unusual in social research for things to turn out differently from how they were planned. It is helpful for you and your grantees to be open about any difficulties experienced in collecting data, or about changes to plans. This will be helpful for you and for others in learning about impact measurement.

This criterion is fully met if:

Findings include details about how evidence was collected, and who it was collected from, so that judgements can be made about the strength of the findings.

What next?

If you’ve met this criterion in full, you can improve your practice by:

  • Highlighting areas where more data is needed or where it’s not possible to draw a clear conclusion

If you and your grantees are open and clear about where there is not enough data to draw a solid conclusion about impact, it will help you to understand which findings are most robust and communicate this to others. It will also help you to learn from experience and improve future impact measurement.

4.3 We use our findings to help us review, and to re-set realistic and achievable targets

Collecting evidence about your impact will give you the detailed information you need to assess whether or not you are on track with your strategic plan. Reviewing your findings against your output targets (what you hoped to deliver, and to whom) and your outcome targets (the difference that you wanted to make for beneficiaries) will help you to understand the extent to which you have been successful in creating the changes that you planned. In the same way, you can use findings to help grantees review their own achievements against their targets.

Once you understand the current level of achievement against agreed targets, you will be better placed to set realistic targets for future work. Your understanding of how and why your funding makes a difference, and the pace at which outcomes are achieved for beneficiaries, will also help you to set achievable targets.

This criterion is fully met if:

You use your findings to review the extent to which output and outcome targets were met, and to set targets for future funding that are realistic and achievable.

What next?

If you’ve met this criterion in full, you could improve your funding practice by:

  • Using your findings to develop a clearer picture of the strengths and weaknesses of the strategy, approach and delivery of your funding programmes
  • Using your evidence to inform an assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of your funding can help you to build a strategy for change or think through where best to target your resources.
  • Using your findings to improve your funding programmes, including identifying potential new or additional funding

Reviewing evidence on impact can help you reconsider your overall funding strategy and review your approaches and the effectiveness of your delivery. It may also suggest where new or additional funding can be targeted.

4.4 We use our findings to make sure that our theory of change (the description of how and why our work makes a difference) is accurate and realistic

Your theory of change describes the links between outputs, outcomes and impact, and sets out how and why your funding makes a difference. Having collected evidence of the difference your funding is making, you should now be able to assess whether or not this description is accurate and realistic.

This means reviewing whether or not your funding creates change in the way that you imagined, as well as considering whether or not the scale of change that you hoped to create was realistic and achievable. Reviewing your theory of change document against the findings will help you to make changes, if necessary, to the way you describe the difference your work makes.

This process is not about reducing your ambition, or lowering the bar of what you want to achieve. It is a process of making sure that you give a true picture of the difference your work makes, or can potentially make, and that the goals you are working towards are realistic and feasible given the type of change your funding creates, and the resources you have available.

This criterion is fully met if:

You use the findings to check that your theory of change document is accurate and realistic. You make amends as necessary, based on the evidence of how and why your funding makes a difference.

What next?

If you’ve met this criterion in full, you can improve your practice by:

  • Reviewing the time frames within which you expect changes to happen
  • Collecting evidence will have given you information about the timescales in which your grantees achieve different changes. You can use this evidence to review funding timescales or expectations about achievement of outcomes, and to make your theory of change more accurate and realistic.
  • Reviewing the resources needed to create change

Using the evidence gathered, you can also review your original assumptions about the resources necessary for creating change, and refine this area of your theory of change document.

4.5 We use our findings to improve our funding programme and practice

Funders are accountable to investors, to trustees and governing bodies, to the wider public and to beneficiaries themselves, and want to obtain the best possible outcomes. Making even more of a difference through your funding, and improving the way you work with and support your grantees, is the ultimate goal of focusing on your impact. This could involve using your findings to make straightforward changes, such as changes to your reporting requirements; or more complex ones, such as changing the focus of your funding programme.

Without reflecting and acting on what your findings mean for the way you deliver your work, you will leave the impact cycle unfinished.

This criterion is fully met if:

You make changes to the way you deliver your funding programme based on your findings.

What next?

If you’ve met this criterion in full, you can improve your practice by:

  • Using your findings to reallocate resources to different aspects of the management and delivery of your funding programme, and to your impact practice
  • Understanding the strengths and weaknesses of the management and delivery of your funding programme may lead you to reallocate resources to develop and improve what you do.
  • Evidence of impact will also help you make strategic decisions about how and what you fund to make the most difference to beneficiaries.
  • Using your findings to set standards for the way you deliver your funding programme

Measuring your impact will give you an evidence base for deciding which processes and ways of working are most effective at creating change for your beneficiaries. Developing standards for how you deliver your services or how your grantees deliver theirs, based on this evidence, will help to make sure that everyone in your project or organisation is working to the framework that is most likely to generate results.

4.6 We review the way we measure our impact and make changes as necessary

Once you have completed a full cycle of planning, evidencing, understanding, communicating and learning about your impact, there will almost always be things that you would do differently the next time around. Taking the time to reflect on how you work with grantees to measure impact, and how they work with their beneficiaries and other stakeholders, will help you improve the quality and value of the data you collect.

This reflection should include how you clarify and communicate the difference you want to make as a funder, how you communicate with grantees and support them to clarify their own outputs and outcomes and agree realistic targets. It will also include how you support grantees, including financially, to collect data from beneficiaries in order to provide the appropriate standards of evidence and to report findings effectively.

Your review will include not only how you measure impact but also how your grantees use impact evidence to learn and improve, in order to make the most difference to immediate beneficiaries and to a wider community.

This criterion is fully met if:

You take the time to reflect on how your tools and processes could be improved at the end of each cycle, and make changes if necessary.

What next?

If you’ve met this criterion in full, you can improve your practice by:

  • Including your board, staff and grantees in a review of your impact practice
  • Gathering input from the people who collect the data and the people who provide information (where possible), will help you to make informed changes to any data collection tools and processes.
  • Using your learning to help identify any new or expanded resources needed to improve your impact practice, or that of your grantees

You can also use your learning to inform your understanding of any resource needs you might have around measuring and making sense of your impact, and to feed into your short- and long-term plans to meet these needs.

4.7 We communicate our findings honestly, including information about failures as well as successes and encourage our grantees to do the same

Collecting evidence of your impact has the potential to increase your own understanding of how and why your funding is effective in creating change. It can also contribute to a wider understanding around which types of intervention are most successful, and which approaches are worth promoting and replicating.

A crucial feature of understanding ‘what works’ is being able to identify what does not work. As well as providing evidence of success, measuring your impact will also tell you when funding does not have expected outcomes and does not provide good value, and why. Encouraging your grantees to communicate honestly and openly about failure, as well as success, and in turn including this evidence in your wider impact reporting, will spread the benefit of this learning. It will send a clear message both to your governing entity and to grantees about your commitment to evidencing and increasing impact.

This criterion is fully met if:

The way you present your findings acknowledges and explains any negative or unplanned outcomes that you discovered through your own impact measurement and that of your grantees.

What next?

If you’ve met this criterion in full, you can improve your practice by:

  • Acknowledging alternative explanations for positive outcomes

In addition to reporting on negative and unexpected outcomes, acknowledging alternative explanations for positive outcomes will provide a more balanced and useful account of your impact and that of your grantees, which can make a more useful contribution to understanding about ‘what works’.

  • Commenting on the extent to which your findings reflect existing research into ‘what works’

If there is existing research into work that is similar to the specific funded interventions or your model of funding, commenting on the way in which your findings tie in with this body of evidence will add useful depth to the way you communicate your impact.

Resources for this section

Feeding back your findings

Putting the Code into Practice is Inspiring Impact’s guidance on sharing findings.

Using your findings to improve the way you work

Support Guides from ESS help voluntary organisations make the most of impact measurement. Support Guide 4.1, Using what you learn from evaluation, describes some useful ways of making the most of your impact measurement findings. This will also be of relevance to funders.

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