Dr. Streamline’s Tough Talk on Outdated Practices

Dear Doc,

I just got off the phone with a weeping woman.  She’d sent 7 copies of her organization’s application, along with the audit, board minutes from the last three years, and other assorted attachments… but they arrived  a day after our deadline.  Of course we couldn’t accept them.  Why was she so traumatized by our enforcement of a simple rule?

Sue Petty

Dear Ms. Petty,

I’ll admit that I’m a bit traumatized by your requirements too.  It’s unnecessary (and, dare I say, unacceptable) for a U.S. foundation to require hard copies at all, let alone multiple copies.

Let me explain: for a long time (in the pre-email days), sending a hard copy of a grant proposal was the only option.  Many grantmakers required multiple copies from their grantseekers because:

a)      they wanted to provide copies for their trustees or grant review body, and

b)      they didn’t want to make the copies themselves.

Applicants, who needed the funding, didn’t complain about this added burden, although the stacks of paper they were required to copy and mail were legion.  And thus, a bad habit was born.

But look. It’s now 2013 and pretty much everyone has email. Even funders who don’t have fancy online grantmaking systems have started to accept applications and reports via email or by using an online “dropbox.” It’s not radical anymore.

Now, I realize that your trustees or review committee may still want hard copies – and the question is:  who should make those copies?  Here’s the answer:  Your organization should make the copies.  In any grantmaking process, there is an administrative burden. It is our belief that the grantmaker – who has resources that the applicant lacks – should assume more of this burden. This is especially true when funders don’t like to pay for administrative costs!

So, Ms. Petty, to answer your question directly, your applicant is probably traumatized for several reasons.  First of all, she did a lot of work (which cost her organization money) to put together your full proposal. She paid to send it through the mail to you.  True, it didn’t arrive in time; sometimes mail is like that. Now, rules are rules, and you are within your rights to enforce them (as long as they were clearly communicated) but I would urge you to reconsider the requirement for hard copies – and especially multiple hard copies – altogether.

sincerely dr streamline

Dr. Streamline

Dr. Streamline is also known as Jessica Bearman. She, along with her colleague Streamlining Surgeon Alice Cottingham, and a cohort of Streamlining Interns, are available to answer all of your streamlining questions. Together, they diagnose the good, the bad, and the mystifying, and prescribe cures for your streamlining woes.If you have a question about your own grantmaking process, or one that you’ve encountered, please write to Dr. Streamline at drstreamline@peakgrantmaking.org for a useful (and possibly entertaining) Rx.