BH TIG Week: Maximizing the Value of GPRA Data for Day-to-Day Decision Making by Jennifer Battis

Hello! My name is Jennifer Battis and I am a Training and Technical Assistance Coordinator (TTAC) at the Center for Social Innovation in Needham, MA. As a TTAC, I have been providing trainings on how to use and make the most of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA’s) Performance Accountability and Reporting System (SPARS). SPARS is the online data entry and reporting system grantees use to submit timely and accurate performance Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA) data to SAMHSA. Having previously been a longtime evaluator, I know that it can sometimes be quite a challenge to achieve buy-in from local-level staff about grant reporting requirements, so I would like to spend some time talking about how you can make the most of the data you are collecting to add value to your local programs and evaluations.

A simple way to do this is to use your grant data in your sustainability planning.  There are several ways that you can use required data as you plan for sustainability after your grant ends. Grantees can use their required data to create program fact sheets that provide community members, program participants, funders, and other stakeholders with information about who the program serves, program components, and program effectiveness. Program fact sheets can be used within sustainability planning to market your program at community health fairs to build relationships and inform the community about your program. Program fact sheets can also be an effective way to demonstrate program outcomes to potential funders.

As you build your program fact sheet, start with these steps:

  1. Consider your target audience; does it include—
    • Funders?
    • Community members?
    • Ancillary service providers?
  2. Think about which data variables might be of interest to each target audience and best illustrate the contributions you make to your clients’ lives. For example, a fact sheet for community members can describe the population you serve, program components, and improvements in key areas such as substance use, housing stability, or employment.

Hot Tip: To make things even easier for you, SPARS has automatically generated reports allowing grantees easy access to data about your program, including outcomes data.

Hot Tip: Consider ways to include case studies, quotes, and other qualitative information from your program participants in your fact sheet.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Behavioral Health (BH) TIG Week with our colleagues in Behavioral Health Topical Interest Group. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from our BH TIG members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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