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Not Just Another Dusty Shelf Report: How to Use Your Report Beyond Fulfilling a Funding Requirement

By Stacy Hayden, M.A., SEG Research Associate

Evaluator-prepared reports according to one recently interviewed project director have utility beyond meeting a funder’s requirements as they can inform future grant writing and current grant cycle activities. Report recipients can share sections of the report with others (e.g., workgroup, committee, project team) and use specific questions to explore the findings and plan for the future or use the evaluator-prepared report as a source for completing other reports. Six commonly used evaluation report sections are highlighted below and with an explanation of how each may be useful to review with the project team and other key constituents along with list of guiding questions.

1. Executive Summary: The most commonly shared section of longer reports, the executive summary is especially effective for providing leadership with a high-level summary of a project. Many project directors use them as a handout or as bullets in a slide deck. In this application, questions that may be asked include:

  • Given the evaluation report findings, what resonates with you?

  • What opportunities or connections do you see with the work of this project to other initiatives within our organization (e.g., college, school system)?

2. Fidelity of Implementation Section/Table: Many reports include fidelity of implementation data in a table. Fidelity of Implementation assesses to what extent the project is being implemented in accordance with the proposed plan. When reviewing indicators in a fidelity of implementation section some questions you may wish to ask are:

  • Based on the indicators that are met, what are we doing well?

  • What strategies helped us to meet this indicator?

  • Based on the indicators that are not met, what do we still need to work on?

  • Why did we not meet this indicator (if applicable)? What steps would we need to take to meet this indicator in the future?

3. Process Monitoring Section/Table: Some reports will also include a section on process monitoring. Process monitoring provides information to help improve the project over time. Often, this information comes from participants (e.g., students, teachers/faculty, staff). When reviewing indicators or questions in a process monitoring section some questions you may wish to ask are:

  • What do interested parties/participants (e.g., students, community members, teachers, administrators) think is going well? How can we continue to improve or expand on what is going well?

  • What do interested parties/participants think needs improvement? What action steps should be taken to address these concerns?

  • Based on feedback, what aspects of the project might be best/feasible to sustain beyond the period of grant funding? What steps would need to be taken to achieve sustainability?

4. Survey Results: Many evaluations also involve surveys or feedback forms. Reviewing this data can be quite informative. Sometimes, specific data points are selected and presented throughout the report. When this happens, the project director can curate these statistics for review. In other cases, tables or graphs may be presented in the report that can be used.

  • What surprises you about that data? In other words, what do you notice as outliers (i.e., higher or lower). Why do you think it is higher or lower?

  • What does the data mean for the project? What should be sustained? What may need to be changed?

5. Sustainability: In many reports, the evaluator is asked to discuss what elements of the project are emerging as sustainable. There are seven key domains of sustainability (described in our June 2022 post). As you explore this section, note what areas the evaluator identified as sustainable for your project. Consider:

  • What domains of sustainability are not represented in this section?

  • What aspects of this project could emerge as sustainable? What action steps are needed to take to accomplish this?

6. Recommendations: Finally, most reports include a recommendations/conclusions section. This section may be written in a bulleted list, which makes it easier for sharing with a work group or committee. As you discuss each recommendation you may wish to explore the following questions:

  • Which recommendations are most feasible to address at this time?

  • Which recommendations may need a longer timeframe and are worthy of addressing?

  • What action steps need to be taken to address this recommendation?

  • If a recommendation cannot feasibly be addressed, what is an alternate action that can be taken to partly address the recommendation?


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