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Funders really DON’T just want numbers – honest!

Nicola Swan, Evaluation Support Manager talks about what funders really want to be told from organisations applying for funding (Initially published in Big Lottery Fund Big Blog)

Whether it’s outright or in hushed tones, here at Evaluation Support Scotland we frequently hear third sector organisations say “funders only really want numbers.” 

This is a common misconception. Our experience of working with funders and funded organisations tells us that your funder(s) will usually want to see a mix of numbers and stories in your report. Mhairi Reid, Big Lottery Fund told us:

“Stories provide us with valuable learning about practice and impact, and they help bring important statistics to life.” 

You can do this in many different ways, depending on what feels most appropriate for the people you work with and the environment you work in.

  • Case studies are one way of bringing your work alive or highlighting an individual’s journey through your service. If you’d like some tips take a look at our Support Guide on writing case studies. 
  • Creative writing is powerful both as an activity and as an evaluation tool. This enables you to capture feedback from individuals and share it directly with your funders. Check out our ‘Using creative writing’ method sheet here.
  • Wordle creates “word clouds” from text that you provide (like the example above). The clouds give greater weight to words that appear more frequently in your text. You can share these in reports to show what issues are important to people you support.                                                                              

If you feel you could tell your story more effectively through other means, such as a video or voice clips, have a chat with your Funding Officer about different ways of reporting back.  Lightburn Elderly Association Project (LEAP) decided to create and share a video with the Big Lottery Fund as part of their report.  Georgie Madden from LEAP told us:

“We decided to do something different to feedback to our funders. Statistics are important, but they are a bit dry. The video is powerful because it shows what people think of us, feel about us and the difference we make to their health and wellbeing. Client stories play a huge part in the qualitative feedback for us.”

Find out more about LEAP’s experiences in this case study.

For more tips about analysing and reporting your evidence, sign up for our Telling My Story workshop