During 2008, Project Streamline held conversations with more than 1,000 grantmakers and grantseekers to discuss the Drowning in Paperwork, Distracted From Purpose report findings. Out of those conversations, the following ideas and recommendations were proposed about the role grantseekers can play in streamlining application and reporting processes:
- Research before applying.Carefully read guidelines and application instructions provided by the funder as well as a grant lists to gauge appropriate request amounts and the likelihood of fitting within funding priorities. It is a waste of both the grantseeker’s and grantmaker’s time to prepare, review, and respond to grant proposals that don’t fit priorities. Including information not requested by the grantmaker can also waste time and resources. Grantseekers can instead post these items on their websites, so that funders can find them there if needed. Grantseekers can also utilize letter-of-intent processes, eligibility quizzes, and updated Foundation Center listings in their research.
- Ask questions.Many grantmakers are responsive to questions about funding priorities and processes. This can include requests to submit a different proposal or budget format than requested by the funder. A five-minute conversation or quick email can save both parties a lot of time in proposal preparation. In addition, grantseekers may get some insight into the decision to decline a request through a phone call, though many funders are unable, due to time constraints, to provide detailed reasons for declined requests. Grantseekers should recognize such calls as an opportunity to learn more about how the decision was made and not as an offer to appeal the decision.
- Review agreement terms before signing.Grant agreements are legal documents that both parties are expected to honor. Grantseekers need to make sure they clearly understand the terms, when reports are due, and what notifications they are required to give if problems arise. If the grant period, reporting schedule, or reporting format will add a burden to their organizations, grantseekers should push back and suggest a reporting method and timeline that works best for them. Many grantmakers will be flexible on the terms and requirements if asked.
- Keep good records.Create a system and archive for tracking proposals that have been submitted, due dates for grant reports, and other funder requirements. This tracking system and archive should be accessible to multiple people in the grantseeker’s organization to ensure that information won’t be lost in the event of staff turnover.
- Make information as accessible as possible.Grantseekers can post common grant application information (e.g., organization history, mission, staff bios, budget, and financials) on their websites so funders can easily access it if needed. All key files should also be in PDF format so grantseekers can send them immediately upon a funder’s request.
- Incorporate application and reporting costs into your budget.These staff and supply costs are real operating or program costs and should be considered by funders as they are evaluating proposals and determining grant amounts.