The Final Report: Opening the Door to Your Next Grant
Grant writing can be exciting. You build momentum for a project or funding opportunity, craft a well written funding case and hopefully are rewarded with the support to carry out the proposed program. Time goes by, and the dreaded task of writing the final report looms on your calendar.
Admittedly I will look for other things to do before sitting down to write a report. However, when approached from the right frame of mind, reports serve as an excellent vehicle to obtain future support from the funder. First, the report puts your organization back in front of the people making funding decisions. It may have been as long as a year that you had substantive contact with the funder, especially if it was a corporation or small foundation. The final report is a great opportunity to reintroduce your organization or program to the sponsor. Second, you get to tell your story -- the successes (and challenges) you faced during the grant period. Write about the good work you have done and the problems you have solved. And third, you can lay the ground work for future funding needs; what you could not accomplish during the funding cycle, how the current program will be expanded or other opportunities you may have identified while carrying out the original project.
Most grants, other than outright sponsorships, have a reporting requirement. Depending on the award period, funders may request a mid-year and final report for a one-year grant, or an annual and final report for a multi-year grant. If the sponsor has a specific report format you will obviously follow it closely. They may provide a preset form, or ask that you use certain subject headings or respond to specific questions in writing a report narrative. For large grants, the final project expenditures may also be requested.
If a form or questions are not provided, use a letter format addressed to the program officer or executive director. Like most funding requests, the report should be short and to the point. Begin with a thank you to the sponsor (remember to name the sponsor here) for their generous support of the "XYZ" project or program. Continue with a brief restatement of original need, followed by the program's goals and objectives. This helps remind (or acquaint) the reader of your project and what you set out to accomplish. Next, describe the project's results or outcomes. You may want to use bulleted statements or lists so the reader can quickly see your achievements. Always include numbers here if they are available and appropriate. You may also add a case study or brief story to personalize the results for the reader. Following the outcomes, talk briefly about what you learned during the project, what new needs or opportunities may have been identified and ideas for future work. This is where you begin a dialogue for future funding. End with another "thank you" and an invitation to call you with any comments or questions.
As a courtesy, follow up the report with a phone call to see that it was received and met the reporting requirements. It is unlikely you will be asked for a personal meeting with staff, but you can offer that you are available to meet, or ask if you can call the next time you are in area. Some funders limit how often you can reapply for funding, so this is also a good time to ask when the next grant cycle is and if you are eligible to reapply. Finally, remember to send a copy of the report to board members, your director and program staff that had significant roles in the project. Add a personal thank you for their help in successfully completing the project.
Final reports are a necessary and important part of the grants process. By using them to your advantage, you can develop lasting and mutually beneficial relationships with your program sponsors.