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How to write a great report for your Open Award

Please note that The Robertson Trust has published its new Giving Strategy. This sets out the priorities we will have when awarding funds through our open grants programme. The existing application form and guidelines can still be used until July 31st. In line with our existing procedures, we will aim to assess and present all applications received by this date to our September Board meeting. In the event that we are unable to do so, your application may be held until our November meeting. In such cases a member of staff will contact you and provide any assistance required to realign your application with the new Giving Strategy. Find out all you need to know here.

With up to 1500 grants active at any one time, we, in The Robertson Trust’s Giving Team, have a lot of reports to read. It can be a part of the job we love – particularly when the reports really bring an organisation’s work to life!

As well as learning about the amazing work our funded organisations are carrying out across the country, we also really appreciate learning about situations which haven’t quite panned out as expected – after all, funded organisations are the best source of sector knowledge we have and such information can help us identify future priorities (see ‘If funders don’t value our evidence, why do they ask for it?’ blog).
 
We’ve recently been using some of the strongest reports to identify funding stories for our website. These help us highlight best practice based on the real-life experiences of those on the ground - see our recent examples with Craigshill Good Neighbour Network and Glasgow East End Community Carers - and we hope that our #TRTBestPractice series, in which these selected organisations offer some tips for others doing similar work, will become a useful sector resource. 
 
So, what makes a good report? While we appreciate it may not be the most exciting part of your work, we hope the tips below will help simplify the process of creating a report which effectively showcases your organisation's strengths and professionalism to more than just your funders!

  • Refer directly to the Outcomes and Activities you agreed with us at the beginning of the grant year

For each activity, tell us whether or not you delivered it and provide some simple details, such as numbers of people who took part, how often the activity took place and what this involved. We appreciate that things don’t always go to plan, so if you weren’t able to deliver some of your activities, tell us why and what you did instead or what you learned; 

For each of your outcomes, tell us whether or not you achieved these or are making progress towards them, the differences you made for the people accessing your services and how you know this. It's really helpful to include evidence to illustrate the differences made, such as survey results, case studies, video links, quotes, feedback from stakeholders etc.  

  • Tell us about any challenges or changes during the period, or about anything you would like to do differently in future to improve your project.... 

.....but don’t wait until your report is due to tell us about any significant changes that impact on how our grant is used. For example, if the post we are funding becomes vacant, the job role changes or working hours reduce, if the project activity is no longer going ahead or reduces significantly – it's really helpful if you can contact us in good time to make us aware of this. 

  • Provide your Outcomes and Activities for the year ahead.

Although we would normally expect your outcomes to remain the same throughout the grant period., we understand that your your activities may change to reflect any new developments planned, change in participant numbers etc. 

  • Tell us about any match funding you have secured or pending towards the work we are funding for the year ahead...

...and include sources, amounts and timescales for decisions (for funds not yet in place). 

  • Be proportionate and assume nothing!

If you are reporting on a Small Grant (i.e. between £5K and £10K per annum), we don’t expect you to write War & Peace! However, if you hold a larger grant, we’re looking for a bit more detail in your report.  Remember that the Funding Officer reviewing your End of Year Report may not necessarily be the person who assessed your application and so won’t always be familiar with your work. Try to use plain English, be concise and think how your report would read from an outsider’s perspective. 

  • Reporting to other funders? 

Our reports are based on the principles of Harmonising Reporting, which means we ask many of the same questions as other funders. If you have prepared a report for another funder for the same piece of work, we may be able to accept it, as long as it still provides the information we need (see our sample report below). Please contact us on 0141 353 7300 or funding@therobertsontrust.org.uk to discuss.

Where next?

For more information about end of year/grant reporting, you can also visit or download our reporting guidance notes as well as our sample end of year report

Meanwhile, while the above tips will hopefully provide some useful information, we appreciate that many of the best resources around reporting have already been produced elsewhere. We particularly like the Scotland Funder's Forum's Tips for a Good Report and Evaluation Support Scotland's New Principles for Grant Reporting.