These questions can help to see what style of evaluation and impact reporting could work for you.
Who is the evaluation for?
The audience and potential use will define the method and type of information collected.
This may be your trustees, major donors, your research panel or other internal departments. The evaluation should be informed by the needs of the audience and the measures they will find most relevant – to influence policy development might require different information from that needed for fundraising with major donors.
What size is your grants portfolio?
A large portfolio will provide a lot of information, requiring resources to interpret the data; with a small portfolio, research funders can interact with researchers directly to investigate case studies and chase publication details.
What to count?
What do your stakeholders want to know? And what counts as a return on investment?
What resources do you have to undertake the evaluation?
Surveys of past grantholders take time to manage and analyse, but several member charities have conducted retrospective surveys and produced reports within a year. Other members employ evaluation departments and tools, and look on evaluation as an on-going part of research management.
Retrospective or ongoing?
A retrospective analysis of a whole programme allows a deep analysis that can fit into discussions on strategy but requires substantial time in set up and data collection, while ongoing data collection from all active/completed grants allows quicker, more flexible analysis.