We recently covered how best to apply for grant funding through a project proposal. Now, once you’ve received and put your grant to good work, you may be thinking about writing a final grant report. But what exactly is a final grant report? Why would you want to write one? And what needs to be included? In this article, we’re going to explain all of this, and provide some useful resources to find out more.
A grant report is a report produced once a grant has been received, and spent on implementing a project. Sometimes a grant report will be stipulated as terms of receiving the grant. Other times, you might wish to voluntarily write one. This is because there are several key benefits to writing a grant report. By writing a grant report, you’re reassuring your sponsors of the return-on-investment from their support. You’re showing them the difference that their grant has made, and the positive impact it has had. Importantly, you’re saying thank you for their trust and belief in your project.
Writing a grant report should aim to give a positive outlook on the results of the grant. Though it’s important to provide a balanced view, bear in mind that your grant report can help secure future funding opportunities. Therefore, even if the project wasn’t a success, focus on the positive results that have come about through it, whether that be: lessons learned, knowledge gained, or better decisions being made in the future.
If writing a final grant report was stipulated as part of the terms of receipt, you may have a set structure for how the funding body wants the final report. Alternatively, you may want to include some extra details, or you may not have a set structure at all. Whatever the case may be, we’ve set-out some of the key aspects, which from our research and experience, have found that funding bodies tend to like to see, reacting positively to.
Time has likely passed since your grant was received. Your funding body may also distribute a large number of grants. It’s therefore useful to remind your funding body of what your project was all about. Try to summarise:
This is just a summary of the project, so there’s no need to go into too many details at this stage, these will come later.
This is essentially an expansion on the project summary, with details as to how the project may have differed from the original proposal. It should not yet be an evaluation of the project. This will come later, and will draw upon details discussed throughout the final grant report. When explaining where deviations from the proposal were made, remember to explain why exactly these decisions were made. These will likely be as a result of ‘unknown variables’, which couldn't have been accounted for at proposal stage.
Remember, we’re looking to be positive throughout the grant report. There will no doubt be some deviations which are for the better and some which are for the worse, so try and take a measured approach to how you discuss both of these.
Now we’re looking to get into more detail around the project's outcomes. It may be that you'll have defined project KPIs during the proposal stage. If this occurred afterwards, that’s also fine, you can explain how these came about after at this stage. We’re looking here to quantify the benefit that project brought about. If you have a variety of KPIs to choose from, focus on those that most resonate with the funding sponsor. For example, if your funding sponsor has an environmental agenda, you may wish to choose KPIs that illustrate the positive environmental impact that has come about. Things such as reduced wastage, carbon emissions or lower usage of fossil fuels would all suffice.
You can demonstrate the impact that your project has had by taking a baseline ‘before’ and comparing it to an ‘after’ state, and applying your KPIs to each state. The difference between that before and after state perfectly illustrates the impact of your project, in a way that resonates with your funding sponsor.
Now is your chance to really hamer home the good that your project has done. We’ve already explained the quantified benefits, but they may only tell half the story. The project benefits is a chance to explain all the additional positive impacts that the project has brought about.
Try to think outside the box, and perhaps even away from the key objectives of the project (which is most likely covered by your project KPIs anyway). Think about how your team may have developed, what new skills were learned or how it may have inspired your next projects. There is less of a requirement to be as objective here as there is with KPIs, as the benefits are unquantified. This gives you much more freedom to explore all possible benefits of the project, further justifying to your sponsor how valued their grant was.
Now it’s time to take a more reflective look at how the project went. Look at this holistically, considering both the positives and negatives that occurred, what you might do differently next time, and what you or your team have learned throughout the process. Here, it’s okay to be honest about what didn’t go so well. Try and look for the positives that could come about from these.
You may wish to take a structured approach to your project evaluation. Here you may wish to split the project up into sections (design, methods, implementation, processes, etc.) before creating specific evaluation questions or an evaluation criteria. You could even go further, evaluating project outcomes through further testing methods. This might involve gathering more, longer term data on the impact of your project, that tells a more comprehensive story than your initial project would have revealed.
The project evaluation can be as comprehensive as you feel necessary. Each project is different, and there is no one-size-fits-all evaluation method. Try researching similar projects to get an idea of what's required for your evaluation. It’s also useful to speak with the funding sponsor, to see what they would typically look for in a project evaluation.
Ultimately, the goal of the project evaluation is to demonstrate to the sponsor that you’re reflecting on your projects and their outcomes. By showing that you are considering these factors, taking a proactive approach to learning and development, you’re sure to be looked well upon, no matter how the project went.
You’ve now covered the major aspects of what needs to be included in a final grant report. Many individuals would be happy with what has already been mentioned, however you must consider the possibility that in some cases, more specific details may be required. One surefire way to make sure you’re covering all bases is to produce a detailed cost breakdown. It’s unlikely everyones going to be interested in this, but just by including it shows a high level of attention to detail.
Assuming that every purchase that was made with the grant was tracked in some way (either bank statements or receipts usually), we would recommend making a simple spreadsheet of where all these costs were incurred. For large grants, this can get very complicated very quickly, so high level breakdown of cost by project area would also be useful here.
For extra points, you might even want to estimate a return-on-investment for each cost using your KPIs mentioned earlier. This is a nice way of showing the value that the sponsor is getting for their money, putting a positive spin on the otherwise less enthralling conversation on costs.
Though the spreadsheet should primarily be made up of figures, feel free to add justifications where necessary to explain why figures are what they are. This is especially useful where ‘surprising’ figures may appear, which to someone who isn’t directly involved in the project can seem out of place. It also can help to tell the story of your project, likely backing up points already mentioned.
To finish the grant report, it’s nice to summarise the key takeaways of the grant report and the next steps for your organisation. This again further hammers home the positive impact that the project has had as a result of the funding, and connects your sponsor with a human element of the project. This is also a great chance to say ‘thank you’ for everything your funding provider has done, ending your final grant report on a positive note.
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