Planning, Monitoring, Evaluation and Reporting – insights from Jill Ritchie

We’ve had the pleasure of reading leading fundraising strategist, Jill Ritchie’s latest book – Fundraising for non-profits . It has a wealth of information on relevant topics for Causes – established and new!

If you enjoy and find this content useful – you can buy the book by clicking here.

“Jill Ritchie has spent over three decades raising money for and advising causes as diverse as anti-apartheid organisations, environmental projects and the performing arts. She has raised over R2 billion for South African and SADC region. Combining a background in commerce and marketing as well as extensive experience as a writer, Jill consults on all aspects of fundraising, capital campaigns and resource mobilisation planning.”

We’d like to share an excerpt from the chapter on Planning, Monitoring, Evaluation and Reporting

“Corporate, trust and foreign donors have become serious and non-negotiable about NPOs having well thought out methods and systems for monitoring the services that they render in order to evaluate their success (or otherwise), which of course means how successfully or not they spent donors’ money.”

M&E has become a buzz-word in the charity sector, but do you really know what it means, how you can use it to benefit your Cause, and biggest question of all – where to start? Jill says to start with a Mindset switch:

“The inherent resistance to carrying out monitoring and evaluation among many NPO board members, managers and staff must be replaced by a mindset switch to recognising the numerous benefits that these procedures and their findings can have on the way an organisation carries out its services. After all, why does it exist if not to serve a cause? M and E will also aid in identifying and implementing the best practices and, yes, improving its bottom line – resources, including money, mobilised.”

Let’s look at the basic difference between reporting and monitoring and evaluating:

  • “Reports should focus on the specific project funded and give donors feedback on whether or not the originally stated goals were met.
  • Did the NPO do what it said it would – e.g. train 100 people, feed 2 000 frail destitute elderly or rehabilitate 50 square hectare of fynbos?
  • Were the funds spent as outlined in the budget?
  • Was everything envisaged/promised/undertaken done?
  • What were the results (e.g. of the 100 trainees, 84 graduated with a new skill)?”

“Monitoring and evaluation encompasses all the above but goes way further. It is ongoing. It is aimed at constantly seeking best practice methods and improving every aspect of an NPO’s systems, policies and service delivery. It never ends! Monitoring shows up areas that need improvement, on an ongoing basis.”

Integrate PMER (Planning, Monitoring, Evaluation and Reporting) into all aspects of your Cause – it’s not something that can be looked at in isolation:

“Integrate planning, monitoring, evaluation and reporting process into all aspects of the organisation and its service delivery. Monitoring and evaluation should be considered at the planning stages of a project and woven in throughout all that an NPO does. Most organisations’ board or staff members did not do this when the entities were formed or with the advent of new projects, restructuring or expansion – nor do some do so at all. Yet, the majority hold strategic and other planning sessions. Monitoring systems and evaluation procedures must be incorporated into every aspect of an NPO’s work. This has become so critical that we can delay no longer. Monitoring methods and systems and reliable evaluation reports remain conspicuous by their absence in too many NPOs in South Africa.”

Jill highlights the importance of being proactive and thinking ahead when it comes to PMER.

The monitoring process:

“Ongoing and meticulous monitoring – while constantly referring to the original project planning (ideally a business plan) – acts as a live, real time gauge as to whether the project delivery process (as originally envisaged) is in fact correct for the need. It may be that, as time passes and situations change, adaptations are required to service delivery methods. The same old same old not particularly successful project without tweaks and/or major changes will ultimately mean failure on every level: failing the beneficiary community, failing the donor and failing the NPO, causing it to lose credibility and even closure when funding ceases.”

Why donors want projects MONITORED:

“Donors consulted concurred that they want projects that they fund monitored for exactly the same reasons that NPO board members, managers and staff should desperately and urgently want them monitored!

  • To identify, while still in progress, whether the societal need is being addressed successfully.
  • To identify, early on – when there is still time to make changes – whether the intended goals are likely to be achieved.
  • To be closely watching – monitoring – whether their money is being properly spent.
  • To enable problems to be identified as they occur, and thereby be addressed immediately.
  • To create a heightened sense of responsibility and accountability throughout the NPO – including among service delivery staff.
  • To alert line managers and, ultimately, board members, early, of problems or issues. These could be as drastic as criminal charges being laid against staff members or volunteers or a small change or adjustment might be needed.
  • To have readily available progress report information to pass on to donor partners.
  • To constantly be seeking ways of improving project delivery and documenting these findings.
  • To prevent serious problems only being discovered too late (e.g. overspending resulting in a project not being completed, quality or service delivery inadequate, a staff member, volunteer or consultant not delivering properly).
  • To identify beneficiaries’ problems (e.g. training at too advanced a level, poverty preventing beneficiaries from attending a service delivery venue –
  • possibly providing them with transport money that had not been anticipated and therefore not budgeted for – or fundamental flaws in the planning process, particularly when offering a new service).
  • To enable proper financial controls.
  • To identify deviations (sometimes serious) from the project’s planned and stated processes, early and not only have these picked up during evaluation.
  • To aid evaluation. As long as the monitoring process has been thorough and accurate, records, reports and other documents will enable and streamline the evaluation process. This will easily demonstrate to the evaluator how the desired ‘outcomes’ were achieved and highlight future improvements in both the project delivery and in the monitoring process.”

Why donors want projects EVALUATED:

“As the term ‘evaluation’ simply means to determine the value of an item, function or, in this case, donor funded project, donors want projects evaluated in order to:

  • Determine whether the funding that they invested in a project was well spent.
  • Determine whether the original objectives were met and thereby what a proposal outlined would be achieved, was in fact realised.
  • Determine the impact of the partnership (donor’s money and NPO’s activities).
  • Demonstrate the change that the project has brought about.”

“Identify successes and failures. Success might have scope for improvement and further rollout. Failures are learning curves. Without evaluation, unsuccessful practices are often perpetuated.”

The key to successful monitoring:

“Every activity, from the inception of a project to its conclusion or the end of a phase, should be analysed/assessed by asking questions such as:

Who undertook the activity?

How was (the process) the activity carried out?

What was the activity designed/intended to achieve?

Was the intended result in fact achieved?

And of course, if not, why not?

Often a deviation from the original plan was all that caused a resultant problem. However, it can happen that unexpected factors affect intended results (a sharp rise in costs, crime/violence/unrest, staff problems such as absenteeism, a high turnover or previously unidentified incompetence).”

Jill Ritchie goes on to explain more about evaluation methods, and she answers questions such as how extensive an evaluation is required, what is to be measured in the evaluation process, what is the goal of the evaluation – all very valid points to look at in depth. But she also notes that: “There is no definitive one size fits all method of monitoring a project. The very nature of the project will determine how one actually undertakes the process per project. Be clear as to the questions to be asked of whom and when.”

We hope you enjoyed this bit from Jill Ritchie’s latest book – Fundraising for non-profits.

If you’d like to order the book – you can do so here:

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