Evaluation & Continuous Improvement

FRRR exists to harness the power of collective investment between government, business and philanthropy to improve the lives of those living in rural, regional and remote Australia.

We therefore have an obligation to ensure that our programs are delivering for all of our stakeholders - donors, partners, grant-seekers and of course our founding members.

For this reason, we are continuously working to improve the quality, simplicity, accessibility and relevance of our grant programs.

We implement this in a number of ways:

External evaluation

Each year, we aim to formally evaluate one of our major programs, to assess its effectiveness and to identify ways in which we can improve the program and ensure higher-quality outcomes. In 2012 we commissioned independent research group ACER to conduct a review of two education programs – the Rural Early Childhood Education program (REACH), which ran between 2009 and 2011, and the ongoing Back to School program.

The evaluation helped us to understand better where efficiency of the programs could be improved, for example, the timing of the distribution of Back to School vouchers. It also provided us with some pleasing feedback – that our application process is simple and efficient, our staff are helpful and our niche of support is important.

Importantly however, this evaluation also informed our approach to grant programs for rural education, and helped us to shape the Rural Education Australia Program (REAPing Rewards), which launched in July 2013.

Knowledge and issues papers

It is critical that our programs remain relevant, and embrace the lessons accumulated both from our own experience and that of peer grant makers, academics researching key issues and international best practice.

To remain current, we therefore regularly undertake 'deep dive' reviews and this year, we conducted two such reviews.

One is the Small Grants Knowledge and Issues Paper. After more than 10 years of operation, we saw an opportunity to reflect upon the experiences and lessons learned through the Small Grants for Rural Communities program, and to consider how we can improve its role in the future.

The Natural Disaster Recovery Knowledge Paper is another example of our in-depth analysis of the reach and impacts of our grant programs. After more than seven years in the field, FRRR had the opportunity to reflect on the experiences and lessons learned from its engagement in natural disaster recovery. The paper provides an up-to-date reflection of the sector in Australia, specifically in relation to current approaches and practices in community recovery and the role of philanthropy in assisting community recovery.

The review of both programs has helped to shape our future activities in both areas.

Ongoing program analysis

We conduct internal analysis and evaluation at the end of each round of our programs, issuing reports to donors and the Board of Directors. This enables us to identify emerging trends, and to address any issues we may have experienced in executing the program.

We collate feedback from applicants both informally and through our grant acquittal process, and we strive to address any components of the process that may prove challenging. Where there appears a need, we develop new materials and resources to help show the way.

In 2012 we reviewed the Applying and Reporting sections of our website as well as our FAQ's. We also provide a ‘Community Resources’ section in our monthly eNews – linking to helpful sites and documents that are publicly available.