Implementation logs: A small investment that yields powerful evidence

Tracking time and effort as part of federal grant administration is a best practice, as it provides documentary evidence of the amount of time project staff spend on grant activities. Time and effort forms for project personnel are used for tracking. These forms are usually organized by cost objectives that represent a program, function, activity, award, or work unit of which cost data are desired or required for reporting. Employees may be involved in several federally funded projects or locally funded programs that require tracking by cost objective.

Evaluators may ask federally funded project personnel to share documentation from their time and effort forms or to maintain an implementation log. Implementation logs place stronger emphasis on tracking grant-funded activities as opposed to project personnel time. Logs establish a documentation trail that serves both the project and evaluation team. Often created in an Excel spreadsheet or using an online form, project directors make dated entries in an implementation log for activities and include the time spent, participants and note relevant artifacts (see image). Some project directors place Google Drive links in the artifacts cell, while others provide a file name and location. While logs could be updated daily, some are updated on a more periodic basis.

The value of the implementation log becomes apparent when it is time to produce an annual or final grant report. By the time the reporting cycle occurs, so much has transpired that project details may be forgotten and take time to find. For evaluators, the implementation log establishes timeline documentation and provides evidence of project-related activities ranging from acquisition actions and internal meetings to public events. The log is a primary data source for tracking project implementation and assessing fidelity to the project plan. The time required to maintain an implementation log can be as little as 15-30 minutes a week – a small investment that yields powerful evidence of how federal funds were spent.