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Global Interdependence Initiative
CONTINUOUS PROGRESS Better Advocacy Through Evaluation
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“We ask organizations to look at what they can measure along the way, as some indications of progress: whether people are aware of what they are advocating for, whether the issue has become part of the debate.”
— Megan Burke,
Ford Foundation

Tracking Grantee Progress: Monitoring Benchmarks and Indicators

Now that you have an advocacy grant in full swing, it is time to check in with your grantee to monitor incremental progress. While you might already have in place your own set of requirements to measure a grantee's progress, remember that your work with policy advocates may require some additional attention. If you are not careful, your grantee's progress report could look something like this:

“During the second quarter of the grant, we have achieved all intended benchmarks set forth in the proposal. We have distributed over 1,000 advocacy kits, encouraged our constituents to contact 198 unique congress people with over 31,000 e-mails and 1,284 phone calls.”

What this is really saying is “We're delivering numbers, but we can't (or won't) tell you if we're on track to deliver advocacy results or to become better advocates.” The kind of output described above does not really help you or the grantee assess incremental progress towards the desired advocacy goal. Grantmakers need to be able to track progress -- success and failure -- to make better decisions for future advocacy grants. The monitoring stage of a grant cycle is your chance to really reinforce the meaning of continuous progress, stressing the importance of measuring capacity building and advocacy progress.

You could avoid “outputs without outcomes” by stressing to the grantee that while outputs are important, it is even more important to perform a critical analysis of the results (see the Guidelines for Grantees section). Let the grantee know that you are interested in what happened as a result of the e-mails, the phone calls and the meetings: 'nothing' is a real possibility that you're prepared to accept. Grantees must know that it is acceptable to miss a benchmark, and in fact, this can be anticipated, as long as the grantee can demonstrate through indicators what led to the shortfall and what modifications will be made to meet future benchmarks.

The Guide for Advocates features a section that describes benchmarks for advocacy progress and for capacity building; it is critical that you work with grantees to ensure they include these two types of benchmarks in their evaluation plans and encourage them to monitor progress for both kinds of benchmarks and their indicators.

Also, check in with your grantees to see how their own capacity to monitor benchmarks and indicators is progressing. Are the benchmarks and indicators easy to collect and analyze - or are they cumbersome? Does the grantee need additional assistance in collecting the necessary information?

Whenever possible, make sure that your grantee goes beyond monitoring indicators. Think of indicators as the road signs telling grantees if they are on the right path to meeting their intended benchmarks. Encourage the grantee to look hard at what the indicators are saying: which way are they pointing? Are they indicating a possible need to change course? Let the grantee know that it is acceptable to adjust the advocacy strategy and that changing course is not a bad thing to do. In fact, it is critical to remember that such a course correction may be the smart thing to do if you and the grantee want to realize your long-term goal. Remember, when it comes to policy advocacy, flexibility is the key to success.

Download a Benchmarks and Indicators worksheet. (Right-click the link and save the file to your computer.)

TIPS

  • Be sure to let the grantee know that “outputs without outcomes” is not what you are looking for in an evaluation report.
  • Check whether both capacity building and advocacy benchmarks are being tracked, and whether progress towards goals is being made.
  • Grantmakers should check in on the grantee's capacity to evaluate their advocacy efforts. Does the organization or coalition have the necessary human or financial resources to collect data for an effective evaluation? If not, how can this capacity be strengthened during the life of the grant?