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How to make sure evaluation is useful and used

This blog written by ESS Director Steven Marwick’s was first published on the National Lottery Community Fund website.

Evaluation and learning are important to The National Lottery Community Fund.  That’s why they have a learning support contract with Evaluation Support Scotland (ESS), which means grantholders can get our help with measuring and reporting their impact – for free!

The Robertson Trust also helps its grantholders with free evaluation support through ESS.  And it’s good news if you are funded by both funders!  Their requirements are basically the same.  They both want to know what you did, what difference you made and what you learned.  That means evaluation support from one funder will build your skills to evaluate work funded by the other funder.

Participants ponder evaluation at October's "How's It Going?" session

Participants ponder evaluation at October’s “How’s It Going?” session

Funders that care?

So that sounds like two funders who care and are joined up. “OK”, I hear you ask sceptically, “but is that really true?  Can you prove it?!”

Yes we can!

In October we ran a session called “How’s It Going?” where we brought together a group of grantholders with staff from the National Lottery Community Fund and the Robertson Trust. The session allowed groups to talk openly and honestly about how they evaluate, celebrate successes and share challenges.  Here are three quotes that sum up the session:

  • “Got some great ideas.”
  • “Reinforced that funders as well as us are most interested in the best outcomes”
  • “Realised it’s OK to keep it simple.  No one is looking for anything too complicated or creative.”

16 top tips on useful evaluation

At the session, the grantholders came up with their top 16 useful tips about how to make evaluation useful and used, and you can see these all here.

Some of my favourites include:

  • Talk about evaluation at team meetings.
  • Evaluation is more important to your organisation than your funder so do it for you.
  • Share information on the purpose of evaluation with everyone in your team – get everyone on board.
  • Don’t panic!  But if you are worried ask your Funding Officer or ESS for help.

What did the funders think?

Here’s what Nadeem from The National Lottery Community Fund thought about the event in October:

The “How’s it going?” session was a wonderful opportunity to get grantholders together to share their experiences of evaluation and to learn from one another. It was also an opportunity for grantholders to be able to network with each other and make connections. The event provided a positive platform for the grantholders who were in attendance and it was great for me personally to be able to listen to their experiences and learn more about their respective organisations and the difference that funding makes within their communities

-Nadeem Hanif (Knowledge and Learning Manager, The National Lottery Community Fund)

What help can I get?

If you have a grant from The National Lottery Community Fund Scotland, or The Robertson Trust, you can access support from Evaluation Support Scotland for free. Just speak to your Funding Officer or other regular contact.