Data Gets You Funding, Part I

 In Research

Fix It In Design

Over the years we’ve worked with a number of CEOs and Executive Directors who come to us in a frenzy. Their situations almost always look the same. Whether over a phone call or email they tell us some version of the following:

“So, we’ve been running this program for a while now, and we’d like to get a grant to increase our reach. We KNOW it works, but we don’t have any data. Can you help us show funders how effective we’ve been?”

Everyone reading this who has ever worked in research and evaluation is now taking deep breaths, trying to stave off an anxiety attack. These are the kinds of requests that keep people up at night. The truth is that it’s nearly impossible to prove the impact a program has if we don’t know where people were before they came to your program.

Fortunately, we’ve developed some pretty handy tricks to help us get around this problem, and we’ll be sharing those over the course of the next few months. But first, over these next few weeks, we want to share how you can avoid this situation altogether.

It comes down to one very simple mantra that I learned from a colleague of mine at a conference, “Fix it in Design.” He went on to explain it this way: “If we have to fix a problem in the design phase it will cost you $1. If we have to fix it in production it will cost you $10. If we have to fix at the end, it will cost you $100. So let’s spend the time to fix it in design.”

The lesson here for Executive Directors and CEOs couldn’t be clearer: Start thinking about your evaluation plan the same day you start thinking about your program plan. It will prevent you from having to spend more time, energy, and money later.

In the next post on this series of Data Gets You Funding, we’ll share three very simple things you should be doing from the beginning that will help to set you up for long-term success.

Josh Packard, PhD, is the Executive Director of Springtide Research Institute

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