Delivering a grant funded project

Your grant application is often the first step to measuring and evaluating your project. It is the most comprehensive statement of what you will do if your application is successful. So you will need systems for recording information, monitoring and evaluating your progress and performance just as much as the funder does.

This can help provide you with information about your progress and performance to:

  • Check against budgets, targets, timetable, objectives and outcomes
  • Make adjustments if you are going off course
  • Publish in your annual report to help build public image
  • Demonstrate your effective use of funding to use in your next application

Monitoring and evaluation

Monitoring and evaluation shows good business practice and is often a condition of the grant. There are no hard and fast rules about what is required for evaluation. It will be very specific to the criteria laid down by the funder.

  • Some individuals and charitable trusts ask nothing from an organisation once a grant has been given.
  • Other major foundations or trusts ask for a narrative report - a detailed analysis of the project and evidence of the difference it has made.
  • Government and lottery grants will require routine monitoring of the project - progress checking against the delivery plan.

At a minimum, an evaluation should be carried out once a project has been completed. In the case of projects lasting up to three years, an interim evaluation should be carried out at mid point to assess impact and make any necessary adjustments. For impartiality, an independent third party is often used for larger projects and payment can be built into the business case or proposal.

Scope of evaluation

The scope of the evaluation should include at a minimum, the following:

1. Financial forecasts and budgets

Your financial forecasts should show how and when you receive income and incur expenditure year by year. You may produce a budget just for the grant, but it is better to show how the grant fits into your whole organisation or a distinct part of it, provided you indicate clearly what is grant expenditure and what is not.

2. The timetable

Break the project down into different stages (e.g. recruitment - start up - development - first milestone - second milestone - completion) and perhaps again into component tasks (e.g. manager in post, accommodation ready, other staff in post, induction training completed, admin systems in place etc).

3. Measurable targets

Try to come up with more telling targets, which you can keep track of e.g. the numbers of new volunteers or trainees recruited, additional people receiving your services and events held.

Measuring the immeasurable

The most difficult thing to do is to record things, which you cannot count - such as the impact of your project on the shy unemployed volunteer whose outlook changes dramatically, and who acquires new skills or the confidence to take up a training course. However, do not depend on remembering these changes - keep a log of significant developments or progress files on the people who work on the project. It is hard work, but it can be powerful ammunition when you want to attract funding next year.

Outcomes monitoring and evaluation

Monitoring and evaluating outcomes are becoming more and more important to funders. The Big Lottery Fund and the Charities Evaluation Service has recently issued guidance on how organisations need to focus on the outcomes of any project in their application forms. It is crucial therefore, that you continue to or get started immediately to monitor your activities and collect evidence to input into future applications.

Conditions of grant

The conditions of grant will vary depending on which body is responsible for issuing the grant. Care should be taken to ensure that any conditions stipulated are met in full. In particular, they will specify:

  • How the money is to be used
  • How reimbursement will be made for expenditure incurred
  • The final date by which claims should be submitted
  • Proper financial records and controls should exist
  • Audit requirements in terms of annual reports
  • Issues relating to the purchase of capital assets
  • Treatment of VAT

There is a requirement for your organisation to confirm that they accept the terms and conditions by signing a copy of the document and returning it to the funding authority responsible for issuing the grant.

If at any stage of the project, an alternative method of achieving the same outcomes is identified, and which would involve the use of approved funds differently from that agreed by the funding body, then they should be consulted before any decision is taken to vary the agreed terms and conditions of the grant. If this is not done then it could lead to the grant expenditure not being reimbursed to the organisation and thus a cost against the organisation's budget.

Accounting for expenditure

Irrespective of the type of grant, a complete record of expenditure will need to be maintained. There is a statutory obligation to retain financial records (as at current time 6 years plus the current financial year) in accordance with CIPFA Accounting Code of Practice.

Receiving grant income

The frequency of claim will depend on the particular grant conditions - most commonly, this is quarterly in arrears. The provision of reports at the close of each financial year for all grants is a specific requirement and they should be available for scrutiny by external auditors.

Where grant payments are paid in advance this process is still required plus additional supporting documentation to justify expenditure against the advance provided.

Keys to success in grant procurement:

  • Maintain a summary sheet showing what expenditure has been incurred.
  • Readily supply copies of invoices, timesheets, and if possible reports from the general ledger showing the expenditure against the relevant cost centre.
  • Always maintain a summary of the progress made to date against the original project objectives.