Reporting Best Practices
Every grant has its own reporting burden and schedule. Reports serve a variety of functions, but the overall goal is to assess how well the project is meeting or has met its goal, what factors contribute to or impede success, and how appropriately the grant money has been spent. Reporting ultimately makes it possible for others inside and outside SPPS to learn from and further the knowledge gained by a project.
Commit to It
To ensure that milestones, barriers, and lessons are captured, grant managers should keep a journal of project activities. This can be updated daily or weekly and serves as a place to track activities as they are planned, implemented, and completed. Struggles are expected. Note issues as they occur and detail attempts to fix them. What activities are successful? What can be learned that can be applied to future efforts? What data was collected?
The log or journal is a collection of the grant manager’s personal notes, and can be assembled in whatever format works best, from full descriptions, to bulleted lists, to sentence fragments.
Every month, review the activity log or journal and compile a monthly report. If available, include recommendations from evaluators and observations from others. This can be sent to supervisors and the grants management coordinator (GMC) as an informal project update.
Every three months, use the monthly reports to compile a quarterly review. Information from evaluations, data collection, analysis, and any early findings should be included if available. Note what adjustments have been made based on early findings, if any. The Minnesota Common Report Form is a good framework as the questions are standard and comprehensive. This is a good opportunity to provide an update on the budget and assess whether or not the project is on track. This report should go supervisors, the project’s accountant, the GMC, and Research, Evaluation & Assessment (REA).
Formal Reports and Sharing the Project
Every six months, compile a formal semi-annual report. This should be sent to all stakeholders.
All these reports feed into annual or closeout reports, academic papers, and presentations. Reports going outside SPPS, papers, and presentations must all be reviewed and approved by REA and the GMC in advance.