Tea break with

sarah armstrong

Executive Director of Internet Society Foundation

What kicks off your Monday morning?

It is simple, I love my job. Now that we are living during a pandemic and have had to change the way in which we interact with one another, the Internet is more important than ever.  The Internet has always played a critical role in connecting people, but also in educating them, giving them economic growth opportunities and more. It can provide so many things beyond social media! Every Monday, I start a week of making a difference around the world and I get up happily.

What inspires you to work in the Development sector?

I feel that we all are on this earth to make a difference in other people’s lives. Family’s and friends’ of course, but also — if you have the drive and energy — in people’s lives on a global scale. I have been working in the field for decades now, I love having a positive impact and helping people around the world.

What helps you do your job well?

I have a great team. The talent that comes to the Internet Society Foundation is unparalleled. The foundation’s staff is what makes it work. I could never do it alone.

The foundation’s staff is what makes it work. I could never do it alone.

And then, from my own perspective, what helps me do my job well is my passion, despite the challenges of the pandemic.

You recently launched a Grant Application & Project Implementation Guidance destined to help the Foundation’s grant applicants strengthen their proposals. What are your motivations behind making it available to anyone and everyone?

There is to me nothing more important than measuring the impact of your work, especially when your organization serves an ill-answered need. You need to know what it is that you are doing and what impact it has on your beneficiaries. I want potential grantees to have that awareness and understanding, and not just conduct a project and think that it is enough. Is your project working?, Is the investment that we are making worth it?, those are questions I want answers to as a grantmaking organization.

There is to me nothing more important than measuring the impact of your work, especially when your organization serves an ill-answered need.

However, the Internet Society Foundation differentiates itself from other grantmaking institutions as, added to providing financial support, it provides knowledge and tools. We do not only ask our potential grantees to measure impact, but we teach them how to do so in the Grant Application and Project Implementation Guidance. With this guidance, we hope to help people turn that corner.

As a matter of fact, the guidance was very well received by the community. We have had a lot of visits already since the launch last Spring! We are also getting a reasonably low amount of questions as grant applicants can read about Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning (MEL) in the guidance; which is saving us time and making it much easier for anyone interested in working with the Foundation.


According to you and the Foundation, how should grant applicants think about MEL?

Grant applicants should think about it. Period. It is the first step. Then, applicants should understand what MEL means and make sure to build it in their application. I have been working in the International Aid sector for a long time now, and I am amazed at how many projects on which I worked that did not have MEL, pre-or post-surveys in their budget.

Grant applicants should think about [Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning]. Period.

Which role does impact play when assessing potential grant recipients?

Impact is obviously extremely important, and so is the grant applicant’s ability to demonstrate that it possess financial management skills. As a grantmaking organization, we need to be able to be sure that the organizations we fund know what to do with our funding, and track it. It does not have to be terribly formal, but drafting a business plan and monitoring it is essential.

In your perspective, how will the attention for impact measurement evolve in the charitable sector?

I am guessing that it is going to grow. I know that many NGOs are currently struggling with fundraising as a result of the pandemic. Many included impact measurement in their strategy to differentiate themselves and increase their chances at receiving funding.

tea cup

Who would you like to have a tea break with?

I would love to have a Tea Break With Michelle Obama. I have seen her speak, I feel like she has a wonderful gift at looking at the world positively and coming up with ways to have others do the same. And I think that we need more people like that, especially at the moment. I feel that I would learn so much from her, and there is nothing more important than meeting people from whom you can learn.

Sarah Armstrong_Internet Society Foundation

Sarah Armstrong

Executive Director of Internet Society Foundation

New to MEL and Impact?

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About the series

Have you ever wondered whether you had more in common with your peers than just your passion for making a difference? Through informal interviews, we explore the ultimate drives of fundraising professionals, donors and association’s leaders, as well as their secrets for successful Mondays and their insights about the NGO and fundraising sector. Grab a cup and read on!

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