Publicising outcomes

Publicising information about which funded projects are the most and least effective - and why - can be as valuable as any other project outcomes. If you can ensure that this information reaches the right people, it can add to the value of all those projects and improve other projects' chances of success.

When should you spread the word?

1. Primary outreach

Many funded projects - research studies, for example - are oriented towards producing information. Unless other people pick up that information and use it, you've wasted your money.

2. Secondary outreach

Many funded projects are geared towards providing services. Apart from the value these provide to their target groups, though - the people who are housed or educated or counselled, to take a few examples - these service projects also generate their own practical lessons, vital to the success of subsequent ventures in the same field.

3. Tertiary outreach

Whatever kind of work your organisation funds, you yourself are in a privileged position in relation to the material those projects generate. You have a bird's eye view, and you are able to compare and contrast the way different approaches to the project vision produce different effects. If you keep that information to yourself, it's not worth much.

How should you spread the word?

Each of the three phases warrants a written report so that anybody who's interested in the topic can read about it.

The grant recipient should carry out the primary outreach, and it's worth writing this into funding agreements. The secondary outreach is perhaps a joint responsibility, and tertiary outreach is up to you.

Primary outreach

It's a good idea to include a section on your application form asking grantseekers to explain how they plan to publicise the outcomes of their project. For example, they might plan to:

  • issue a media release and hold a media conference
  • produce an academic journal article and submit it to a recognised, refereed journal in the field
  • publish details of the research on the researcher's website
  • publish details of the research in a recognised, searchable internet database.

Your responsibility as a grantmaker is to weigh the applicant's commitment to and competence in dissemination against other factors when allocating grants.

Secondary outreach

Projects that are not oriented towards research still generate knowledge. As the funder you can:

  • ask grantees to evaluate the success of their projects, based on criteria you provide; and/or
  • ask grantees for fuller reports that make special efforts to extract all the lessons of a project - the ones that were planned for, and the others as well.

Some organisations are reluctant to publicise instances where grantees have fallen short, fearing that this will be seen as reflecting badly on the funder. In practice, however, the gains in your credibility and your usefulness are likely to outweigh any such criticisms.

Practitioners tend not to read professional journals, so for secondary outreach you may need to:

  • issue a media release and hold a media conference
  • write for general interest papers or magazines
  • circulate a newsletter to stakeholders and interested readers
  • submit materials to Our Community's Centre for What Works.
  • publish a strong website that attracts readers from across the field.

You may want to fund this work as part of the project to ensure that the full benefits of wide dissemination can be realised.

Tertiary outreach

Even project leaders who are perceptive, frank and forthcoming are necessarily limited in their perspective. They are only able to try one approach at a time. You, on the other hand, can take an overview, comparing one approach with another.

On large projects, consider budgeting for a final report that not only sets out the numbers but also reviews how things might have been different. A report like this will take commitment and resources, but it will allow your organisation to say with more certainty what it should be funding and how, while also providing benefits to society at large.

Your goal is to be a trusted source of reliable information, a voice that is sought out by those anxious to learn. The internet means you can disseminate this information worldwide if you choose.