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Are We Making Effective Grants? [Part 2]

by Nick Randell, Program Officer
2016-August 18


Meteor Crater National Landmark |  Windslow, Arizona

[This second (and final) installment takes a look at recent Tower grants and their impact on the target population, grantee organization, and the field at large.]

Once again, we wanted to take a look at the somewhat broader impact of our grantmaking.  On our lessons learned forms we also scored grants for impact (whether "significant," "some," or "no impact").  We looked at three kinds of impact: 1) impact on target population (was a clinic able to see more young patients in a given month?); 2) impact on organizational capacity (did an agency create new in-house trainers?); 3) impact on the field (did the work help convince a state agency to expand reimbursements to a new service delivery model?).  It is worth noting that we expected impact on the field to be fairly modest, simply because most of the grants we looked at did not have field-level objectives.

Here are three pie charts showing what we found for the 22 grants we looked at.

We tried to capture some key features of projects that demonstrated "significant" impact on the target population.  Here are some things that were true of grants with target population impact rated "significant."

  • Reach was broad, 30 child care centers engaged for example.
  • Expanded capacity to deliver service (respite slots, more mental health and substance use screenings conducted, greater availability of proven interventions, expanding access to clinical tools for practitioners).
  • Culture change around trauma, including trauma-informed residential facilities and child-parent strategies for addressing trauma.
  • Expanded arts-based programming.
  • Prevention messages that customized to the audience and reflect community realities.
  • Improved customer experience (e.g., reduced wait times)

Grants that demonstrated significant impact on organizational capacity were characterized by:

  • Comprehensive - not superficial training - that is accompanied by coaching, technical support, and refresher training.
  • Management commitment to the long-term staffing needs of system change.
  • Increased access to expressive arts-based programming.
  • Development of trauma-informed culture.
  • Improvements to the client experience (reduced wait times, care coordinators)
  • Improved capacity to screen for substance use problems, deliver brief interventions.

We expect the field-level impact of our Core Programs and Services grants to be fairly modest, simply because they tend not to have field-level objectives up front. Nonetheless, about 60% had at least some potential impact on the field.

Here are a few factors that seem to contribute to field level impact.

  • Building the capacity for primary care providers to conduct behavioral health screenings signals continuing momentum for move towards more integrated care.
  • Work adds to body of evidence for effectiveness of a particular intervention.
  • Adoption of new models by large regional provider can influence other providers, payer systems.
  • Work with national agency improved a behavioral health curriculum for use in schools, supporting dissemination in 28 states.
  • Grant supported testing of new models (community college vocational track, primary and behavioral health care integration) with potential for wider adoption.
  • Work created the only certified US trainer for a curriculum that teaches communication and socialization skills to young people with autism.
  • Art program included inclusive musical theater production, offering a robust model for a rarely used approach.  Documentary about the production is forthcoming.

Photo by Harmony
Flickr: 2518506503
Creative Commons 2.0

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