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Aligning grant reporting

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These principles have been developed by a group of funders and funded organisations: 

  • Big Lottery Fund
  • Cardboard Citizens
  • Comic Relief
  • Esmée Fairbairn Foundation
  • Heritage Lottery Fund
  • Hull Community Church
  • Institute for Voluntary Action Research
  • Joseph Rowntree Foundation
  • Lloyds Bank Foundation for England and Wales
  • Older Citizens Advocacy York
  • One25
  • Paul Hamlyn Foundation
  • Pears Foundation
  • Refugee Action
  • Thames Reach
  • Tudor Trust

‘Funder-led. Bureaucratic. Time-consuming. Misunderstood.’ All words that have been used to describe UK grant reporting – the process (or processes) by which charities report their progress to funders. No matter how simple and clear an individual funder’s system might be, charities can be forced to repackage similar information for different funders, on different dates, with different word counts and in different formats.

 

A group of funders and charities have developed a set of principles to make grant reporting a shared, more meaningful and mutually beneficial experience. Over the next six months, nine funders are testing these principles. 

The principles

1. Funders explain why they have awarded a grant.

2. Funders and funded organisations are clear about what grant reporting will look like. 

3. Funders are clear about the type of relationship they would like to have with the organisations they fund. 

4. Funders only ask for information they need and use, and question whether they need bespoke reporting. 

5. Funders give feedback on any grant reporting they receive, and share their thoughts on the progress of their work. 

6. Funders describe what they do with the information they obtain from funded organisations. 
IVAR027— New Principles for grant meeting_Final

Publications:

New principles for grant reporting


A set of principles to make grant reporting a shared, more meaningful and mutually beneficial experience.

The starting point for this initiative was a shared view – across the group of funders and funded organisations involved – that current reporting arrangements can be burdensome rather than useful. The group’s goal is to address and reverse that. In attempting to do this, we have recognised and acknowledged that the power to make change happen – to do things differently – rests with funders. The design of reporting arrangements – format, frequency, content – is in their gift. So, although the process of developing the principles set out here has been genuinely collaborative, it now falls to the funders involved to find ways to apply these principles to their practices.


1. Funders explain why they have awarded a grant.

Organisations want to know why they have been funded. It helps them to understand if and how they fit into a funder’s broader strategy, and what that funder expects them to track and report on. Clarity at the start of a grant relationship could prevent misunderstanding and wasted effort later on. Funders could identify which aspects of a funded organisation’s work that they are particularly interested in – or not interested in – and share their views on what success could reasonably and realistically look like. This would help organisations to provide focused reporting that gets to the heart of what funders are most interested in.

Example: A funder shares a short explanation of why they made the grant in the grant offer, drawing on notes taken from trustee discussions, and/or the grant manager’s assessment of the application.

    2. Funders and funded organisations are clear about what grant reporting will look like.

      It is important for funder and funded organisation to understand each other’s expectations of grant reporting. Funders should give organisations clarity over any non-negotiable reporting requirements when awarding a grant, and undertake not to change what those requirements are. Wherever possible, reporting processes and formats should be agreed that meet both parties’ requirements, circumstances (including pre-existing commitments of the funded organisation) and capacity. Small changes to funders’ systems could have a big impact on the organisations they fund, easing pressure at busy times and making progress reports more manageable.

      Example: A funder specifies that their own grant reporting form is used, but invites the funded organisation to propose a timescale that coincides with milestones in the work being funded, or other funders’ timings.

        3. Funders are clear about the type of relationship they would like to have with the organisations they fund.

          Organisations find it helpful to understand the type of relationship that a funder wants. This might include descriptions of the types of contact (e.g. reports, emails, phone calls or meetings), the frequency of contact and the depth of those contacts. At the start of a grant relationship, funders could give funded organisations an opportunity to say what type of relationship they would like, so that the nature of the relationship can be agreed mutually.

          Example: A funder includes in the grant offer an expanded reporting schedule – with a description of the type and amount of contact they expect to have with the funded organisation.

            4. Funders only ask for the information they need and use, and question whether they need bespoke reporting.

              Organisations often have many funders, and have to report on the same work in different ways. This can mean they have to prioritise reporting to funders over their own Trustees, or their annual report. Funders should find out what reports organisations are already producing and ask themselves what more they really need. If they do need extra information, funders could consider whether this ‘bespoke’ reporting is proportionate to the size of the grant, the size of the funded organisation, and which other funders are asking for similar things. 

              Example: A funder giving a small grant asks for no reporting other than the organisation’s annual report and accounts listing the grant, and may meet or visit the funded organisation instead to hear about progress.

                5. Funders give feedback on any grant reporting they receive, and share their thoughts on the progress of the work.

                  Funded organisations put a lot of effort into the reports they submit to funders. It is therefore important for funders to acknowledge receipt of reports and provide feedback. This is an opportunity to validate good work and celebrate success, as well as address where things may not have gone according to plan.

                  Example: After receiving and reading a report, a funder gives the organisation a phone call to acknowledge the report and briefly discuss key points. The funder asks any follow up questions.

                    6. Funders describe what they do with the information they obtain from funded organisations.

                      Funded organisations have a reasonable expectation that there is a purpose to providing funders with information in their grant reports. Funders should therefore make clear to funded organisations what they do with their reports. This could include an indication of who reads the reports, what assessments are made, how the reports feed into future decision-making and how grant reports feed into a broader analysis of a funder’s grant programme. This would give funded organisations confidence that the information they are providing is used, and ensure they are providing the most useful information.

                      Example: A funder writes a short statement that explains how they make use of grant reports across their organisation and includes this on their website and in grant offers.

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                      A number of funders will be testing the principles over the coming months, as outlined below. In summer 2019, we will work with them to review and refresh the principles based on how they have worked in practice. 


                      Big Lottery Fund

                      The Fund has made a commitment to continually improving its guidance & monitoring expectations together with the organisations we fund. These principles give us a great opportunity to look at our next steps with regards to reporting so that it can be aligned and useful to all – communities, the organisations we fund and the funder.

                       

                      Comic Relief

                      We will use the set of principles to challenge ourselves and reflect as we review our reporting approach. We will be testing out co-creating a reporting format with a few grantees who are onward funders of grassroots organisations.

                       

                      Esmée Fairbairn Foundation

                      At a high level, we are keeping the spirit of the principles – using more conversations and less paper – in mind as we develop our new funding strategy for 2020. More practically, though we will look to make progress towards all the principles, we are currently trialling different approaches to numbers two and four – asking some organisations we fund when they would prefer to report, and in what format.  

                       

                      Heritage Lottery Fund

                      We have used the principles to shape some of the changes being made to the grant giving process as part of our next strategic funding framework and they will be used to inform a further process re-engineering over the next two years or so.

                       

                      Joseph Rowntree Foundation

                      • We plan to review our grant offer/conditions to reflect principles one and three
                      • We plan to review our reporting form to reflect principle six
                      • We are aiming in 2019 to initiate learning and practice sharing workshops with grantees. This will enable a conversation regarding principles two and four
                      • We presently produce a short summary of impacts annually drawn from reporting provided by grantees. We will review the possibility of sharing this with grantees (principle five)

                       

                      Lloyds Bank Foundation for England and Wales

                      We are reducing the amount of bespoke reporting we require of our grantees, and want to tell grantees more clearly how we use the information they provide to learn and improve.

                       

                      Paul Hamlyn Foundation

                      We are reviewing how we can integrate the principles into our grant making processes and for holding ourselves to account.

                       

                      Pears Foundation

                      We will use the principles to continue our internal conversations about how we manage Partner relationships, and stimulate discussion with our Partners on their preferred reporting formats.

                       

                      Tudor Trust

                      We are sharing the principles internally and testing with trustees and the grants team.

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                      Background

                      In May 2017, the Evaluation Roundtable network agreed to explore whether grant-making charitable trusts and foundations could move towards more aligned grant reporting arrangements. We analysed 12 such arrangements for areas of commonality and initially six trusts and foundations agreed to be part of a working group, joined by funded organisations. 

                       

                      Our intention from the outset was to see how much progress could be made over two workshops and early on we decided to focus on core funding, rather than project funding. At the end of the second session we all felt there was merit in sharing and testing the principles we had developed. For each funder, this will mean something different. For some, the principles will facilitate internal conversations and thinking; for others, they will be directly applied to a grant-making programme.

                      Investigating Opportunities for Aligned Reporting

                      Publications:

                      Investigating opportunities for aligned reporting


                      This paper explores the opportunities for UK charitable trusts and foundations to align their grant reporting requirements.

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