April 29, 2016

By Dr. Connie Cox Bodner
Supervisory Grants Management Specialist, IMLS

We don’t have to look very far to see a reference to performance these days. We have performance goals at work; our kids are asked to complete performance tasks on standardized tests; and we monitor our favorite athlete’s performance in the most recent game. So it should come as no surprise that performance measurement has made its way into the language of IMLS guidance for writing an application for funding support. Beginning with FY2016 grant applications, IMLS asks you to take measuring performance into account as you plan your project and to make specific plans to gather and report information to us when your project is finished.

No matter which grant program you decide is best for your project, your first encounter with performance goal language is likely to come with the Program Information Sheet. Question 4 directs you to first select one of three IMLS agency-level goals, and then select at least one pre-determined performance goal listed beneath it for your project. For those projects associated with Learning or Community, we provide a link to specific performance measure statements and information you will be expected to provide in your Final Performance Report. You’ll find additional information in the guidance for writing your application’s Narrative in the Notice of Funding Opportunity for the grant program you’ve chosen.

You’ll need both time and resources to measure your performance, so be sure to incorporate both into your application’s narrative, work plan, schedule of completion, and budget, as necessary.

Here are some questions and answers that you might find helpful as you prepare your application. If you have other questions about incorporating performance measurement into your FY2016 grant application, contact one of the IMLS staffers listed for the grant program you’ve chosen. We’re always happy to help. Good luck!

What’s the difference among agency-level goals, performance goals, and performance measurement statements?

  • Agency-level goals are directly linked to IMLS’s strategic plan. Click here to learn more about Learning, Community, and Content and Collections.
  • A performance goal reflects a measurable change or an outcome that you intend for your project to achieve. IMLS has identified three performance goals for Learning projects; one for Community projects; and three for Content and Collections projects, and these are listed on the Program Information Sheet.
  • A performance measurement statement describes what success will look like for your project. These pre-determined statements will help IMLS document the collective achievements of the projects we fund.

How do I choose a single agency-level goal when my project has elements of two or even all three?

  • You must make a choice, so try this: List the activities that you plan to undertake in your project, and assign an agency-level goal to each one. Which agency-level goal is most frequently represented? Can you see a way to fit your whole project within that single category? Are there some activities that might not really belong in the project you’re defining for IMLS support and that could be removed?

How do I choose the most appropriate performance goal(s)?

  • Think about the change that you want your project to bring about, and select the performance goal that best describes it.
  • Good news! If your project will result in more than one type of change, you can select more than one performance goal.

How do I create performance measurement statements for Content and Collections projects?

  • IMLS has not created pre-determined statements for projects in this category. Instead, we ask you the applicant to think carefully about what success will look like upon the successful completion of your project, and use that as a guide for your performance measurement statements. Is it a rehoused collection of 2,300 objects with updated information in the collections management database? A stabilized and conserved painting? A collections storage area that meets appropriate standards for light, temperature, and relative humidity?

Where can I get more information about how to evaluate my project’s performance?

Connie Cox Bodner, PhD is supervisory grants management specialist for the Office of Museum Services within IMLS.