Making a Difference (#3)

What to look for as evidence of impact

We concluded the last post (Making a Difference #2) with the notion that evidence of impact of your gift or grant can best be found near the action you just funded.

It must be there, if it’s anywhere — at least its early signs.  If you look too far down the road, the impact of your gift is mixed in with many other influences.  And if you wait too long to look, your impact could well have dissipated, or morphed into something unrecognizable or unrelated.  On the premise that actions lead to immediate consequences which lead to subsequent consequences, you need to look early and closely, adjusting your view as necessary.

The proposal or solicitation that secured your gift probably made clear what should be happening.

What to look for?  This is partially up to you, to demands on you for answers, and to accumulated lore.  Drawing again on the three variations of Making a Difference #1 and using again the example of hunger, ask yourselves…
…what evidence of impact would you expect to find (and expect not to find)…
…near the scene of a cash-for-relief donation?
…near the scene of a cash-for-community strengthening donation?
…near the scene of a cash-for-system change donation?

This is an exercise; I can’t answer these questions for you.  But if you put your heads together, you could come up with a good list.  And if your issue is something other than hunger, the above questions still work.

If they also remind you of an episode from that new TV hit series, “PSI*: Miami,” I intend it, if only to facilitate a more evidentiary approach to grant evaluation.

“Horatio … look at these fresh bread crumbs and catsup stains on the clothes of this panhandler; what could that mean?

… and look at these kids showing those kids how to cook with cilantro they grew in the community garden — could this be a sign these kids are doing something useful?”

… and look at this report with recommendations and designs for improving food distribution in low-income neighborhoods, do you think this means people here are in the early stages of making upgrades?”

*PSI = Philanthropic Scene Investigation

The questions above were asked from a donor’s perspective.  If you’re a recipient, what kind of evidence would you hope to leave behind?  Try incorporating those signs of evidence into your proposal.

Comments?  Clever responses?  Good ideas?  Suggestions for a sequel?