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Informed. Charities and Commissioners on Results Reporting a National Performance Programme Report for Charities Funders and Support Providers

Informed. Charities and Commissioners on Results Reporting a National Performance Programme Report for Charities Funders and Support Providers

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March 2010
Gustaf LofgrenLeo Ringer
Charities and commissioners on results reporting
 A National Performance Programme report for charities,funders and support providers
Charities and commissioners on results reporting
 A National Performance Programme report for charities,funders and support providers
Cover photograph supplied by Envision.
Charities Evaluation Services’ National Performance Programme has commissioned this work from New Philanthropy Capital (NPC). TheNational Performance Programme is funded by Capacitybuilders’ National Support Services programme and is led by Charities EvaluationServices (CES) in partnership with acevo, the New Economics Foundation, NPC, and Voice4Change England.Improving Support is an initiative led by Capacitybuilders that brings together practical resources and learning to strengthen supportservices for third sector organisations.CES is a company limited by guarantee. Registered in England and Wales no. 2510318.Registered charity no. 803602.Registered office address: 4 Coldbath Square, London, EC1R 5HL, UK.
 This report draws on new research byNew Philanthropy Capital (NPC) into thecommunication of results information bycharities to local authority commissionersand commissioners’ use of this informationto award and monitor contracts and grants.It also focuses on the support available tocharities for monitoring and evaluation fromcommissioners and external providers.By understanding how commissionersuse results information and what drivestheir satisfaction with it, charities canimprove their funding applications andtheir reporting. By understanding thechallenges charities face in this area andwhat other commissioners ask for anduse, commissioners can make appropriatedemands for results information andimprove their own use of it. A grasp of the concerns expressed by charities andcommissioners can help support providersimprove their services for both groups.In 2008/2009, NPC conducted researchinto the reporting relationship betweencharities and grant-making trusts andfoundations as part of the NationalPerformance Programme (NPP). Whenpossible, the findings of the presentresearch will therefore be compared tothose presented in NPC’s report
How are you getting on?
, which was published in April 2009.
Findings from charities
Charities told us that they are generallysatisfied with commissioners’ reportingrequirements. They recognise that resultsinformation plays an important role both intheir communication with commissionersand in commissioners’ decision-making. Inmost cases, they also have some idea of the uses that commissioners make of theinformation they provide. There are clear areas for improvement,however. Around half of the charitieswho responded to our survey considerfunders’ requests for results informationto be disproportionate to the fundingavailable. This supports the finding of aprevious NPC report,
Turning the tables inEngland 
, that public funding arrangementshave particularly burdensome reportingrequirements.
In both surveys andfollow-up interviews, charities expresseda strong preference for more reasonablereporting requirements. Many feel that suchrequirements are becoming more onerousover time. The majority of charities have to tailorthe information they provide to differentcommissioners, both when applying forfunding and when reporting on fundedactivities. This is most often done interms of both content and presentation,creating a great deal of work for charities.Many would therefore like commissionersto standardise reporting formats andrequirements, but recognise that this isunlikely to happen.More than half of the charities respondingto our survey said that they never receivefunding specifically for their monitoringand evaluation work. Nor do they in mostcases receive non-financial assistancefrom commissioners for this work, orget funding to seek external support. Ininterviews, several charities pointed outthat reasonable reporting requirementsare always preferable to disproportionateones accompanied by funding or otherassistance for monitoring work.Charities identified both benefits anddrawbacks of external support formonitoring and evaluation. Some areconcerned that providers lack sectorknowledge and use generic approaches.Others noted the new perspectives theycan bring, and shared examples of supportproviders who more than justified their cost.
Findings from commissioners
Commissioners consider results informationfrom both funding applicants and fundedcharities to be important. They requestseveral types of information and use it ina number of ways, from deciding whetherto renew funding to reporting their ownperformance. The majority of commissioners are satisfiedwith the results information they receivefrom charities, and in some cases notedrecent improvements. They also suggestedseveral ways in which this information couldbe improved further. Most frequently, theynoted that charities could make greaterefforts to make sure that the informationthat they provide is relevant.Strikingly, a few commissioners never askfor results information from charities, eitherat the application stage or when monitoringfunded activities. This is surprising, giventhe importance placed on outcomes andoutcomes data in recent guidance oncommissioning. A substantial proportion of funders toldus that they provide no funding or non-financial assistance for charities to helpthem report their results. One third of commissioners said they never fundcharities to monitor the results of fundedactivities, although a somewhat greaterproportion always do so. Non-financialassistance is more common, providedalways or most of the time by more thanhalf of commissioners responding. Onlyone in five provides funding for externalhelp with this work.Despite their reluctance to fund externalsupport for monitoring and evaluation,commissioners recognise its value. Manycommented on the importance of itsobjectivity and impartiality. On the otherhand, where providers lack local or sector-specific knowledge, this is seen as limitingthe value of their support.
Comparison with grant-making trusts and foundations
 There are a number of similarities betweenthese findings and those of last year’sresearch, which focused on resultsreporting to grant-making trusts andfoundations. Charity respondents in bothsurvey rounds were broadly satisfied withthe reporting requirements of both groupsof funders. However, they think these aredisproportionately burdensome in relationto the amounts of funding available.Similarly, charities’ views on the benefitsand drawbacks of external supportprovision were reasonably consistentacross the surveys, as were thoseof funders. As groups, the commissioners and grant-makers who responded to our surveysare both broadly satisfied with charities’results reporting. Many commissionerswould like charities to be more
‘business- like’
, echoing grant-makers’ desire for agreater degree of compliance from grant

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