Answers, Please!

Maybe you missed this crack-of-dawn tweet, but we’d really like to hear what you have to say in response to Nikki’s provocative question.

Do you think it would be desirable to drop the whole written grant application process? Would it be possible at your foundation?

What would it take to fundamentally revamp how grantmakers work? What assumptions and orthodoxies would have to be dismantled to allow this?

What parts of your process could you dispense with, and why? What aspects would you replace, and why? What would you want to keep, and why? Based on the whys, are there other ways to support and invest in important work that would be equally useful, but simpler?

Is there anyone making grants in a radically stripped down way that we should know about?

We’d love your answers! We want answers from funders and from nonprofits. Your responses can be tongue in cheek, completely sober, and explore the boundaries of wild and crazy creative thinking. If anonymity helps, please feel free to leave your name and organization off your comment – or email us at and we will keep your identity a secret. Please share!

Alice Cottingham

Alice Cottingham is a Chicago consultant to grantmaking foundations and community nonprofits. As someone who believes deeply in Project Streamline, she is honored to be allowed to pose as Dr. Streamline's surgical associate.

Jessica Bearman

Jessica Bearman works with foundations and other mission-based organizations, focusing on organization development, facilitation, and R&D to help them become more intentional, effective, and responsive to the communities that they serve. She is also known as Dr. Streamline. Follow her on Twitter @jbearwoman.

One Response

  1. Fernanda says:

    Last year we decided to radically change our grantmaking application style to something called a “co-design”. Applicants are assigned a staff liaison who works with the applicant and gives feedback on the proposal. We also got rid of several pages worth of an application and our application is now very simple….almost too simple. Some of my observations of now on the second year of this experimentation:

    1) The reaction is mixed. For some, not having to spend hours writing a narrative and answering questions such as what models and approach will be taken is refreshing. Others freak out when you tell them to reply in 250 words or less.

    2) The written information is still there, but now it is through email responses back and forth. We need to use the phone communicate more, and even better if you can meet in person.

    3) Some of my coworkers miss the days of reviewing proposals. It is sometimes hard to answer “what is it that this applicant is proposing to do” without having something in front of you.

    4) Change takes time.

    5) For applications to be radically streamlined, it will require a shift in attitudes, culture, and an increase in trust.

    6) Funders who do not require a written application at all (I know you are out there) should share their lessons learned with the rest of us mortals.

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