The length of time between when proposals must be submitted for grant programs and when they are funded can often be several months to almost a year. During that time, a lot of things in an organization to change. After you receive notice that your project will be funded, we recommend taking the following steps to support successful project implementation.
1. Reread the Grant Application
When organizations prepare grant applications the information that is included is accurate to the best of their knowledge. However, things can change during the period of time between submitting the proposal and receiving funding. As you reread the funded application, take notes about what your organization has committed to doing. This should also include any timelines or information (e.g., number of participants, number of activities) that were specified. Look for the data that were specified in the application and determine how frequently they were to be measured and reported.
If the application included a logic model or evaluation framework, these may be good places to pull some of the information from. However, it will be important to also add information from the application that is not included. It may be helpful to create a list in excel of each item on your “to do” list.
2. Begin to Keep an Implementation Log
As soon as you begin to work on the project start tracking activities in an implementation log. An implementation log tracks grant activities (e.g., meetings, emails, programs), including who was involved and what resulted from the activities. More information about implementation logs can be found in our August 2022 blog post (https://www.shafferevaluation.com/post/implementation-logs). Particularly in the first year of a project, an implementation log can help to track all of the “behind the scenes” work that happens to implement a project. This is a helpful tool for project staff and evaluators to report on what has occurred with the project.
3. Confirm the Feasibility of the Activities/Data Collection
Hopefully you were able to collaborate with stakeholders or solicit stakeholder feedback while writing the grant proposal. In an ideal world, the time between submitting the application and funding would have been quick as well, allowing for limited changes within the organization. However, this is not always the case.
Once you have created the list of activities or data collection required, think through who will need to be involved. For example, activities may need an administrator to approve it or data may need to be obtained from someone in charge of a certain department. Prepare a list of how each stakeholder will expect to be involved or support the project and then follow up with them and confirm the feasibility of the plan outlined in the grant application. For example, if the grant specified that the middle school would get a new makerspace, create several STEM-focused clubs, and implement a new STEM course, there are several stakeholders project staff should speak to prior to beginning implementation. First, middle school administration needs to be aware of the purpose of the grant, the expected outcomes, and what they are expected to do. It will be important to talk with the administrators to ensure these activities are feasible at their school. If the proposed activities involve teachers working outside of their regular hours (e.g., running STEM clubs), it also may be helpful to reach out to prospective teachers to see if this is something they would be interested in doing. The creation of the STEM course would likely need to follow a district process and confirming the process in advance will help avoid any roadblocks during the process.
In some situations, there may be factors that do not allow a proposed project to be implemented as planned. For example, perhaps there was a space that was planned for the makerspace, but in the time since the application went in the space is now occupied. Working with stakeholders at the onset of the project will allow you to build initial support for the implementation or understand where you will need to pivot or adjust plans.
4. Plan in Advance for Sustainability
Once you hold discussions with stakeholders about planned project activities, you’ll have a better understanding of the logistics involved with each project activity. Although the project is just beginning, this is the best time to start thinking about what can be sustained after grant funding ends. More information about sustainability planning can be found in our June 2022 blog post (https://www.shafferevaluation.com/post/planning-for-sustainability).
5. Contact the Evaluator and Funder to Discuss Any Potential Changes
At this point, if you’ve decided to make any changes to the proposed project, you’ll want to contact the funder and potentially the evaluator. If the evaluator was involved in preparing the initial grant application we would recommend contacting the evaluator first. While the evaluator will be unable to tell you if the funder will approve any changes, the evaluator can help you think through any implications related to the change (e.g., how activities will affect data collection). The evaluator may also have suggestions of questions you should ask the funder when you speak with them.
Next, contacting the funder will be important. Grant programs have different requirements when it comes to changing goals, activities, and expected outcomes. Reviewing any suggested changes with the funder and getting them improved is important. Further, if money is going to be used for a different purpose, there may be procedures to follow to gain approval.
6. Develop a Work Plan
Once you’ve made final decisions about any changes to the program and had these approved, it is time to plan for how to make your plans come to fruition. Although you will have a list of activities to be implemented and data to be collected, there are many steps to ensuring these happen successfully and on time. We recommend developing a work plan. In a work plan, each activity is broken down into the individual steps required for completing that activity. For example, conducting an annual teacher survey might include the following tasks:
· Contact evaluator for survey link
· Send survey link to points of contact
· Confirm points of contact have sent survey link to teachers
· Send follow up email #1
· Send follow up email #2
· Send follow up email #3 (only to schools with low response rate)
Work plans also include the staff responsible for completing the activity and the date of the activity. In some cases, it may also be appropriate to include the amount of time for completing the activity. Developing a work plan helps to break activities down into manageable steps to ensure project activities are completed on time.
Hearing that a project has been funded is an exciting time. Completing the steps above will help project directors ensure smooth and successful project implementation.