Blog: Youth Music’s top ten tips for grant-giving

Youth Music shared ten tips for other grant-giving organisations who are looking to focus on impact:

  1. Use a theory of change. Youth Music found the theory of change process to be very useful in setting out their overall aims and their outcomes. This now sits behind all of their grant-making.
  2. Get buy in from the whole organisation. A number of factors had led to an organisational shift, including buy in from the senior leadership team. They were keen to emphasise that the shift towards becoming a learning organisation has been a ‘massive undertaking’ and therefore support from leadership was a prerequisite.
  3. Grantee training. They felt that the outcomes training had reaped many benefits. By building the skills of grantees, Youth Music simultaneously got buy in from them. Grantees were receptive to the training: it allowed them to meet the team, develop their evaluation plans, meet other grantees and to feel part of a network.
  4. Patience. Keen to highlight patience as a virtue:

“There’s a need to be patient as well in terms of how long that process has taken and to get to where we are now, and to see how long it has taken the sector to be more receptive to that.”

They recommend that other organisations build in the necessary time to undertake evaluation as it is ‘fundamental to the work you do.’ They advise: ‘Don’t side-line it. It takes time to do it well.’

  1. Celebrate successes. Youth Music advised that others thinking of embarking on a similar process should try to make sure they celebrate the successes along the way both internally and externally.
  2. Consistent messaging. Ensuring that you have the same messaging throughout all of your processes and engagement with grantees, staff, grantees and any other stakeholders is an essential feature of embedding this change.
  3. Embedding the learning function in grants officers’ roles. Building this approach into the job role of grants and learning officers has been a key feature to bring about an organisational shift. Carol and Nick felt that the entire organisation has been ‘upskilled … in terms of having an analytical perspective.’
  4. Be open about how the data is used. They take the time to let grantees know what happens to the data they present. They explain the process and how the data is compared to Youth Music’s framework and the other work they do, and how it informs future decision making.
  5. Budget for it. Advising grantees to be aware that evaluation does have a cost and that they should build it into their funding applications. Larger grants may also need external evaluation.
  6. Start small. Take small steps to start the process and build from there.

This blog was taken from a case study written by Sarah Menzies from NCVO Charities Evaluation Services, in collaboration with Carol Reid and Nick Wilsdon, programme director and learning and evaluation manager respectively at Youth Music.

Check out the case study for more information on Youth Music’s impact journey and what they learned along the way.

Nick also wrote a blog for the ACF website on Changing Impact Practice: From accountability to strategic learning

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