Reporting to Funders
Funding organizations typically require regular reports on your process and progress and the outcomes of your project. Preparing reports and sharing project results are opportunities to review progress toward goals, make corrections and adjustments along the way, and identify lessons learned throughout the planning, implementation, and evaluation of the project. Common types of reports include:
- Progress reports. These reports are required annually or at another specified time interval. They update the funder on the project activities completed, funds spent within the time period, milestones met so far, any adjustments to the original plan, and the work anticipated in the next time period. Progress reports may include both narrative and financial components.
- Evaluation reports. These reports are prepared by an evaluator and are useful to both the project team and the funder. They provide data on the project’s accomplishments, as well as feedback to the project team about adjustments that might need to be made along the way. Our guide to evaluation reporting and dissemination provides further information and resources.
- Final reports. These are provided at the conclusion of the project to provide the funder with a comprehensive description of the project and financial expenditures. A final report could include a narrative description of the project; accomplishments and impacts of the project; results of any research conducted; dissemination activities; a list of papers or publications associated with the funding; and any potential continuation of the project, along with future sources of support. The financial accounting should include the major expenditures and components of the project budget.
Some funders may have specific requirements for format and content, and some even use a standardized form that is filled out by all their grantees. As a funding recipient, you should review these expectations when the funding offer is extended and on a continual basis. Include your full project team—not just your development or grants admission staff, but your implementation and communication staff as well—in these discussions to help ensure strong reporting. These members of the team can enhance reporting by capturing photos, videos, stories, data, and analytics.
Guidance for NSF AISL projects
The following information applies to awards made through the National Science Foundation’s (NSF’s) Advancing Informal STEM Learning (AISL) program. Please note that financial reporting has an additional set of guidelines, which you can review in NSF’s Proposal and Award Policies and Procedures Guide (PAPPG). This brief recording also provides guidance on grant and fiscal management for AISL projects.
There are four types of reports that AISL projects must complete:
- Annual reports. You must submit an annual project report to your cognizant program officer at least 90 days before the end of the current budget period. This means that your first annual report will only cover the first nine months of the project. Program officers are aware of this. The reports for subsequent years will cover the full 12 months. Annual reports must be submitted via Research.gov, using a standard form (see below for more information about how to submit).
- Final report. Within 90 days after the grant expires, a final project report is due. This report should provide information on the entirety of the project’s activities, its findings, project participants (individual and organizational), publications, and other products and contributions. Final reports must be submitted via Research.gov, using a standard form (see below for more information).
- Project outcomes report. At the end of your award period, you must submit a project outcomes report that is prepared specifically for the public and that provides a brief summary of the initiative’s nature and outcomes. This report is your communication to the public about what you did and the impact.
- Summative evaluation or knowledge-building report. As stated in your award letter, you must submit a summative evaluation or other knowledge-building report to InformalScience.org, where it can be accessed by the public and grow the collective body of knowledge about the outcomes of AISL projects. This should be submitted to CAISE via this form. The report will be linked to your project page on InformalScience.org, which can be updated at any time. Search for it here. Note that you must be a member of InformalScience.org to submit a resource to the collection. Check the member directory and register if you’re not already a member.
Submitting reports to Research.gov
The annual and final reports submitted via Research.gov use a standard NSF template that is the same for all federal agencies that award basic research grants. You provide narrative answers to standard questions about who worked on the project, the progress you have made, the deliverables you have produced, your outreach, and your accomplishments.
AISL program officers do not require long narratives; in fact, you are encouraged to answer the questions clearly and succinctly. Answers may be given in a bullet-point format, where appropriate. You may upload up to four PDF files (a maximum file size of 5 MB each) to share project products, such as publications, conference posters and presentations, and other materials.
Review the forms, and let your program officer know if you have any questions about any of the required items.
Timelines for submission
Annual reports are due 90 days before the end of the current budget period. For example, if your award letter with your annual budget was dated September 15, then your annual report is due June 15. If you have a multi-year award (e.g., three years), then each year your annual report is due on June 15. For all projects, your first annual report is actually a 9-month report.
Your final report is due 90 days after your award period ends. For example, if the project end-date is September 15, then your final report is due December 15.
The project outcomes report and the summative evaluation / knowledge-building report are considered part of the final report, and therefore are due at the same time.
A summary of when reports are due
|Annual Report||Final Report||Project Outcomes Report||Summative or Knowledge-Building Report|
Consequences of a late submission or a failure to submit
When annual and final reports are overdue, NSF cannot release funds for any existing or new awards to the project’s Principal Investigator (PI) and co-Principal Investigators (co-PIs). This is true not just for the project in question, but for any other proposals on which the PI or co-PIs are listed.
Keep in mind that program officers need to approve your reports, not just receive them. This process takes 30 to 90 days, as it includes time for program officers to read the report, return it to you with questions (if needed), and receive your responses. Turning in your report as soon as it is due ensures that there is no disruption in your—or your colleagues'—award funding.
A final report is considered incomplete if it does not include your outcomes report and your summative evaluation or knowledge-building report. It will not be approved by your program officer.
If you know you are going to submit an annual or final report late, call or email your program officer with an explanation and a projected timeline for submission.
If you fail to submit a final report, you will be prohibited from receiving a future NSF grant.
How NSF and the AISL program use these reports
Annual and final reports provide documentation that is standard for every NSF award. They are an integral part of the NSF-wide system for reporting and monitoring and serve as a mechanism for understanding the nature and fidelity of NSF’s investments.
The summative evaluation or knowledge-building reports that you submit to InformalScience.org help both PIs and evaluators understand what has been learned from prior AISL projects, as well as sharing the evaluation methodologies. They are also helpful to a wider audience of non-PIs and interested professionals who work in other sectors.