October 17, 2017
On Reports and Reporting
On October 5, your quarterly contact reports were due. While we are obligated as public servants to complete these reports, I want to thank all of you who completed your report in a timely fashion!
With regard to reporting – whether it be quarterly reports, Program Focus Team evaluation information, Making a Difference reports, or agent performance review reporting – we often are asked if the information is useful, and does anybody actually read and check up on all those reports? Yes, people do read these reports, and they are useful.
The quarterly reports help to show our federal partners and the federal legislators that we are engaged in educating the public. There are rumors circulating at the Extension Director level that more emphasis and scrutiny will be placed in the near future regarding such reports. So, it is even more important that we submit these reports and they represent your best estimates for the audiences you serve.
Second, every year we have to complete an annual report and submit it to our federal partner, USDA-NIFA. Information from our quarterly reports, Program Focus team evaluation information, and Making a Difference reports is used to compile this report. The annual report is not merely a check the box report. This information is also used to answer federal legislative inquiries regarding Extension. For example, we do know that in recent years the USDA-NIFA reviewers were tasked with extracting information regarding new initiatives in Extension.
With regard to the information provided in annual performance reviews, yes, we use that information, too. Besides helping our boards and regional directors prepare for your performance review, we often use the reports to look for opportunities to improve our system and to look for evidence of success for previous improvement initiatives. For example, once the previous Program Development Committee enhancement project was launched, we used the performance review information to determine if that initiative was successful. We were pleasantly surprised with the results!
Finally, we, as a system, constantly discuss the need to do a better job of telling our story. Your reports provide us with the information to tell that story. If we do not report, there is no story to tell.
So, yes, these reports are used and are important to do. Regarding the latter, it is important to be real. Often we see things that give us pause. For example, some local units have huge volunteer numbers. These numbers could be real, but use this test to determine if your best estimate passes the “real” test. A full time equivalent is roughly 2000 hours. If you submit 5,000 hour of volunteer time on your reports, that works out to 2.5 full time equivalents. If this number makes sense, great. If not, you may need to re-estimate.
Being real also means submitting information in a timely manner, but not to the point of forecasting. It seems like a few of you submit quarterly reports before the quarter actually happens. That is quite a feat. Yes, we have seen this, which means at least somebody reads all these reports.