Quantify, Quantify, Quantify

Six years of grant applications for municipal funding of non-profit society programs crossed my desk from 2003 to 2008. Half the time somebody else would drop the ball and as chairman I’d have a last-minute assignment to complete their assessments, too. As a business administration and operations management grad, the financial and functional sections were no big deal. But here was the kicker:

  • no matter how much I liked the organization
  • no matter how good I felt the program they were offering might be
  • no matter how much they insisted their program was unique and helped people

I was held to a strict criteria of evaluation in order to determine whether funding ought to be recommended or not.

One of the major “quick checks” I had to go by was this…How many residents of the municipality were served by the program? Exactly how many?

You can do a lot of thinking about numbers like this. Such as–is $1000 that helps 100 people deal with having a stroke, or $10 per person helped, better than $8,000 to help 8 blind people have seeing-eye dogs?

But the sad truth is, I rarely arrived at this kind of question (I had written ‘dilemma’, but that’s a choice between two equally undesirable alternatives…). The fact of the matter is that the large majority of organizations seeking municipal grant support were unable to clearly or believably quantify how many people in that municipality that they actually helped with their program.

If you’re writing a proposal or a grant application, don’t go on and on with warm and fuzzies about how great you are and that you “know” you are or are going to help people. Quantify. Tell the reader, at least as an estimate, how many people you’re going to help or how much money you’re going to save or how many hours you will shave off a process. Quantify. Yes, you’re going to have to build in a feedback loop into the delivery of your program. But you should have that anyway–not just float from year to year, executive director to executive director, sometimes paying more attention and sometimes not. Quantify. You’ll see your successes grow.

If you’re having trouble quantifying how your proposal will be deemed as a success, and want to get the attention of The Powers That Be, drop me a line.