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We’re learning from you: how we use funded organisations’ evidence

Cassy Rutherford from The Robertson Trust explains how the Trust uses funded organisations’ evidence to improve their own processes and support the wider sector.

As a funder, we receive a lot of information from our applicants and grant holders in different ways including application forms, end of year reports, published evaluations and visits. Over the last few years we have been looking at how we can make better use of this to both improve our own processes, and to support the wider sector. After all, what’s the point of gathering it if we don’t use it?

The Robertson Trust is the largest independent grant making trust in Scotland and we have a history of gathering and sharing evidence from our Social Impact team’s targeted programmes with an explicit aim of informing external policy and practice. For example, we have shared evidence and recommendations with relevant Scottish Parliamentary committees, published ‘Top Tips for Practitioners’ wanting to reduce alcohol-related harm in young people, and created a micro-site with learning from the Youth Work in Sport programme.

This is a much more difficult task with our responsive Open Grants though because we’re trying to make sense of evidence from a huge range of projects and organisations. Traditionally, we used the information we received to make individual funding decisions but we have been thinking about what more we could usefully do with it. For example, we regularly update our website with ‘Funding Stories’. These not only help us to promote the positive work that is happening in Scotland but they also include tips from the grant holder for others developing similar projects. We hope that this will help organisations to learn from others in a quick and easy way.

Internally, we use the evidence we receive to ensure we are supporting our applicants and grant holders as effectively as possible. For example, we’ve recently seen an increase in the number of applications seeking to address digital exclusion and are considering how we might be better able to support organisations working in this area. Information from our Open Grants programme will also inform our next Strategy review.

We know that our applicants and grant holders are best placed to tell us about the successes they have had, and the challenges they have faced. We also know that we have a responsibility to use the learning to inform our own work, and to share evidence externally to better support the sector. Although we don’t have all the answers yet we are trying, and we are learning; with a lot of help from you!

If you have any suggestions about how we can better use and share evidence, or if you have any questions, please email Cassy (Evidence and Learning Officer) at

From 2014-18 a grant from The Robertson Trust has allowed us to run a Funder Learning Programme of events, training and resources for funder learning.