Revised Reporting: Are We Fooling Ourselves?

  • By Grantmakers for Effective Organizations, March 2, 2018

In the PEAK Insight Journal’s Winter issue, co-editors Jessica Bearman & Elizabeth Myrick will present and analyze findings from PEAK’s recent survey of reporting practice. Read more for some of the high-level findings, the head over to PEAK Grantmaking’s website to learn more.

While there is a nearly universal belief that grant reports are necessary, there is far less agreement about frequency and format, required elements, and uses (never mind, usefulness!). This is the top finding from a research report by PEAK Grantmaking on the methods and uses of grant reporting, a follow up to the Project Streamline look at reporting 10 years ago.

While grant reports are a fact of life, the efficacy of those reports is at the center of the new research, released in an issue of PEAK Grantmaking’s PEAK Insight Journal last week.

Reporting practices vary in way that may seem arbitrary. So even though reporting is, in some ways, getting better, the overarching theme is still that they are a pain point for grantees, and often for grantmakers as well. Too often, the actual use of reports stands in stark contrast to (even contradicts?) funders’ stated aspirations for how they’d like to use grant reports – for learning, strategy development, and to support grantees.

Some of the top-line findings include:

  • Although online reporting has lagged behind online application processes, 64 percent of respondents use an online system to collect and review reports.
  • While certain information is nearly always required, most grantmakers require reports in their own format and will not accept a common report submitted to multiple funders.
  • Although grants can differ subtly or radically within a funder’s portfolio, many respondents reported using a single format and set of requirements regardless of the size or type of grant. Nearly half told us that they have no variation in reporting from grant to grant.

The experience of grantees and grantseekers with reports is also a subject of the research. As reported in a previous article for the journal, too often, funders are missing the connections, lessons, and relationships that grant reporting could and should be making. Reporting is often our field’s first (and sometimes only) opportunity to explore the space between what we hoped for and what actually happened. Reviewing and responding to a grant report can be a critical part of an ongoing conversation between a grantmaker and its nonprofit partners. Reporting can be designed and deployed to benefit the shared work of the funder and grantee. Reporting can lead to greater results.

Some examples of these greater results revealed through reporting are coming in future articles on this topic in the PEAK Insight Journal.

Read about the current state of reporting practices.