The people and organizations that provide grants and funding don’t like throwing their money away any more than you do. They want to know that they’re getting their money’s worth and that they’ve chosen the most deserving recipients. So how can they tell how well their grants and funding are working?

The measuring stick for how much value has been derived from the funding is the evaluation component. This is a part of your grant proposal that explains how you will measure how much difference has occurred as a result of your funded project. For example, if you are a business applying for grants and funding to train your employees, you would test their pre-training job-readiness and knowledge, then administer the same test after the training has occurred. You will typically report your findings to the funder.

The funder will decide whether the amount of improvement was worth the money. That will help determine whether you or someone else will receive similar grants and funds in the future. For that reason, it’s important to structure the evaluation so that it adheres to the SMART acronym (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely). Here’s why.

If you’re not specific, whether you’ve derived success from your grants and funding will be a matter of opinion and interpretation. It should be measurable because you’ll then be able to put a real value on what you’ve gained. Obviously, some things are more quantifiable (i.e., countable) than others, but you should be able to devise a way to assign values to what you’re doing. What you propose should be attainable and realistic because, if you fall short, you may hurt your future chances for grants and funding. Then, finally, the “timely” aspect just means there’s a timeframe for you to achieve what you’ve set out to do.

How do you set up an evaluation method? As mentioned previously, you should assign number values assigned to what you’re doing because you can concretely show that the grants and funding produced results. For example, if you were a schoolteacher and got money to take the kids in your class on a field trip to an art museum, how could you measure the benefit of that? After all, artistic appreciation and enjoyment is just something they’d feel inside. Well, you could do something like evaluate their art knowledge before the trip and ask questions such as whether they’d be likely to visit the art museum again on their own with their family. Ask again after the field trip, and you can measure the increase in art knowledge and appreciation that occurred as a result of touring the art museum.

Most grant proposals do require an evaluation component as a condition of receiving grants and funding. Even when they don’t, it’s a good thing to do anyway. Showing the funder that their generosity was worthwhile increases your own future chances for funding, plus helps ensure that the grants and funding will continue to be available for others in the future. It’s gratifying, too, to see how you’ve succeeded in turning granting funding into positive changes, and is a great motivator for future success.