In last month’s blog—So Your Project Got Funded…Now What?—we reviewed steps project directors should take to support successful implementation once notice is received that your project has been funded. One of those key steps is to keep an implementation log, which provides a simple way to track grant activities (e.g., meetings, emails, programs), including who was involved and what resulted from the activities. Implementation logs were also discussed in our July 2022 blog post.
Professional development calendars and event sign-in sheets, meeting agendas and minutes, course rosters, event flyers, and other project documentation may be linked by project directors to implementation log entries. These artifacts provide evidence that project activities took place and provide insight on how a project was implemented.
Well organized data enhances the project director’s ease in providing information for the project evaluator. Five tips on how to maintain a project documentation archive appear below using a fictional project called MIST (Motivating Individuals in Science and Technology).
1. Set up a shared folder with your evaluator. Consult with your evaluator about selecting a cloud-based file platform that both parties can securely use. Google Drive is a popular option for many school districts and higher education institutions, but there are plenty of other options, including Box, Dropbox, and OneDrive. If you are transferring sensitive information, such as personally identifiable information, make sure the system you select is secure.
2. Organize sub-folders and files within the shared folder using a structure that you can maintain such as by activity, goal, strategy, reporting timeframe, distinct group (e.g., student, staff, faculty), etc. For MIST, there was an afterschool student club component, grade-level field trip activity, and teacher training. For MIST, an appropriate folder structure included three sub-folders (one for each main area) and a fourth sub-folder with general information such as the budget, grant application, and reporting requirements. Within each sub-folder, add files and additional folders as appropriate.
3. Name files for clarity: consistently name files with the project, what it is, and date. For example, a participant sign-in sheet for the MIST professional development may be “MIST_PD_Sign-in_Fall_2022.”
4. Leave breadcrumbs. Some files are maintained in other places such as an online survey tool, YouTube, or shared from a colleague’s Google Drive. A tip is to have a Word document or Excel spreadsheets with the links to where other documentation sources are found.
5. Annotate your documentation as needed. When something goes great, awry, or perhaps somewhere in between, consider leaving an electronic note on the documentation to remind you later of what occurred. Using the MIST afterschool club as an example, perhaps attendance was down due to the flu, students had great quotes about an activity, or there was tweaking of the initial schedule to better align with student needs and interests that emerged.
Not all project documentation needs to be kept. Your project evaluator is best positioned to provide you guidance on which project documentation you should maintain based on your project’s evaluation plan.